Federer crashes out of Wimbledon to cast doubt on future

Published July 8, 2021
Switzerland's Roger Federer (R) congratulates Poland's Hubert Hurkacz after losing their men's quarter-finals match on the ninth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships on July 7. — AFP
Switzerland's Roger Federer (R) congratulates Poland's Hubert Hurkacz after losing their men's quarter-finals match on the ninth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships on July 7. — AFP

LONDON: Roger Federer’s hopes of winning a record-equalling ninth Wimbledon title ended in the quarter-finals following a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 defeat by Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz on Wednesday, potentially bringing down the curtain on the Swiss legend’s All England Club career.

It was only the eight-time Wimbledon champion’s 14th defeat at the tournament in 119 matches and his first straight sets loss since an opening round exit against Mario Ancic in 2002.

Federer turns 40 next month and never was able to summon the serving and shot-making that have carried him to 20 Grand Slam titles overall.

That is tied with Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in tennis history.

Hurkacz is a 24-year-old from Poland who had not made it past the third round at any major tournament until this one. He will face either seventh seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy or 16th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

Novak Djokovic and Denis Shapovalov also reached the semi-finals with wins on Wednesday.

If Djokovic beats Shapovalov and then goes on to claim a sixth Wimbledon title and third in a row on Sunday, that would allow the 34-year-old from Serbia to tie Federer and Nadal with 20 Slam trophies.

For about 20 minutes, Djokovic was not quite his indomitable, infallible self. After racing to a 5-0 lead at the outset, he dropped three consecutive games to his unheralded quarterfinal opponent, 48th-ranked Marton Fucsovics. Wasted five set points in the process, too.

Soon enough, Djokovic righted himself, as he usually does, and beat Fucsovics 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on a windy, overcast afternoon at Centre Court to reach his 10th semi-final and 41st at a major tournament.

Djokovic improved to 19-0 in matches at majors this season as he pursues the first calendar-year Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969. Djokovic seized trophies on the Australian Open’s hard courts in February, on the French Open’s red clay in June and now seeks to add one on Wimbledon’s grass.

“I’m aware of certain stats, I love this sport with all my heart, body and soul and have been devoted to it since I was four,” he said. “Sometimes things do look surreal for me but I try to live in the moment and take every opportunity I have on the court. Going for history is a huge inspiration for me, let’s keep it going.”

Canada’s Shapovalov, the 10th seed, edged 25th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in nearly three-and-half hours at Court Number One.

“Obviously, he’s the best player in the world,” Shapovalov said about the prospect of taking on Djokovic, “but I think anything is possible. And when you look at the scoreboard first thing on Friday ... it’s going to be 0-0. So that’s it. Nothing else matters. It’s a tennis match and it can go either way. I have full belief in myself and my team.”

The 2016 Wimbledon boys’ champion compiled nearly twice as many winners as Khachanov, 59-31. That total included 17 aces for Shapovalov, which helped lessen the importance of his 10 double-faults.

The last break came at 4-4 in the fifth set. Shapovalov converted his fourth break chance in that game when Khachanov sent a forehand long.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2021

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