• 46°

Wimbledon final: Federer goes for No. 8

By Howard Fendrich

AP Tennis Writer

LONDON (AP) — They love their history around these parts and they love Roger Federer and, above all, they love watching him make history.

Now he stands one victory from an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon men’s singles championship after qualifying for his 11th appearance in the final, breaking a record he already held.

Just weeks from turning 36, and a father of four, Federer continued his resurgent season and unchallenged run through this fortnight at the All England Club by conjuring up just enough brilliance to beat 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the semifinals Friday.

“It’s great, but it doesn’t give me the title quite yet. That’s why I came here this year,” Federer said. “I’m so close now, so I just got to stay focused.”

He has won every set he’s played in six matches, and while he did not exactly dominate against the 11th-seeded Berdych, Federer was never in much trouble. On Sunday, Federer will face 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, who reached his first Wimbledon final by eliminating 24th-seeded Sam Querrey of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 with the help of 25 aces and some terrific returning.

“This is his home court,” Cilic said about Federer, “(the) place where he feels the best and knows that he can play the best game.”

Since equaling Pete Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1880s) with a seventh trophy at Wimbledon in 2012, Federer has come this close before to No. 8. But he lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals.

Here comes another chance.

Federer would be the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era, which dates to 1968; as it is, he’s the oldest finalist since Ken Rosewall was 39 in 1974.

“I mean, I don’t see anything that would indicate really Roger is getting older or anything like that,” said Berdych, who wore sneakers with a silhouette of Djokovic’s face on the tongue because his own usual shoes were uncomfortable. “He’s just proving his greatness in our sport.”

Also noteworthy: This is Federer’s second major final of 2017. After losing in the Wimbledon semifinals last year, he took the rest of 2016 off to let his surgically repaired left knee heal. He came back fit and refreshed and won the Australian Open in January for his record-extending 18th Grand Slam title and first anywhere in 4½ years.

“Giving your body rest from time to time is a good thing, as we see now,” Federer said. “And I’m happy it’s paying off because for a second, of course, there is doubts there that maybe one day you’ll never be able to come back and play a match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. But it happened, and it’s happened many, many times this week.”

And most of the 15,000 or so people in attendance were pulling for him. That was evident throughout Friday, from the cries of “Go, Roger!” to the roars of approval and thunderous applause that greeted some of his best efforts on a day when he was not necessarily at his vintage, wondrous best.

The down-the-line forehand passing winner that landed right on the opposite baseline in the second set, leaving Berdych slumping his shoulders. Or the no-look, flicked backhand winner several games later that not many players would even try, let alone manage to do.

Or the way he extricated himself from a sticky situation down 3-2 in the third, facing break points at 15-40: 107 mph (173 kph) ace, 116 mph (187 kph) ace, 120 mph (194 kph) service winner, 119 mph (192 kph) ace. In the very next game, he surged to a 4-3 lead by breaking Berdych. That was pretty much that.

“I was able to come up with the goods when it mattered,” Federer said.

The No. 7-seeded Cilic was not able to do that in the opening tiebreaker against Querrey, the first man from the U.S. in any major semifinals since 2009.

At 6-all, Cilic seemed distracted by a delay of a couple of minutes when a spectator who appeared to feel ill was helped from her seat and out of the stands. When action resumed, Cilic flubbed two backhands to cede the set.

But from there, he steadied, handling Querrey’s big serves rather well. A trio of superb returns earned a key break in the fourth set, the last a massive forehand off a 79 mph (127 kph) second serve that drew a shanked backhand and a yell of “No!” from Querrey.

The next test for Cilic is the toughest of all: beating Federer at Centre Court. They met in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year, when Cilic took the opening two sets and even held a match point before Federer came all the way back to win, improving to 6-1 head-to-head.

That lone win for Cilic was by straight sets in the semifinals in New York three years ago, on the way to his one major title.

“I still know that it’s a big mountain to climb,” Cilic said. “Roger is playing maybe (some) of his best tennis of his career at the moment.”

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Comments

Coronavirus

Fluctuating COVID-19 death number back to 302 in Rowan County

Crime

Habitual felon sentenced to at least 8 years in prison

Kannapolis

City of Kannapolis to have bike rodeo Saturday

Crime

Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham

Coronavirus

RSS superintendent, Board of Health discuss strategies for increasing student vaccination rates

Education

East Spencer charter school files petition to contest charter revocation

Nation/World

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

News

Lawyers: Black man didn’t drive into deputies who shot him

Nation/World

Liz Cheney says Trump and GOP backers threaten democracy

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department clarifies county’s COVID-19 death total is 301

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot