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Federer into 11th Wimbledon final; faces Cilic for 8th title

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Federer into 11th Wimbledon final; faces Cilic for 8th title

LONDON -- Roger Federer is here once more, back in a Wimbledon final for the 11th time, back on the verge of an eighth championship at the All England Club, more than any man has collected in the storied, century-plus history of the place.

Nearly 36, and a father of four, Federer continued his resurgent season and unchallenged run through this fortnight by conjuring up just enough brilliance to beat 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 on Friday.

"Can't almost believe it's true again," Federer said.

He has won every set he's played in this year's tournament and while he did not dominate the semifinal, he was never in much trouble. On Sunday, Federer will face 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, who reached his first final at the All England Club 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.

Since equaling Pete Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1880s) with a seventh title 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.

Now 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.

"This guy doesn't seem like he's getting any older or slowing down," said Berdych, who wore shoes with a silhouette of Djokovic's face on the tongue. "He's just proving his greatness in our sport."

Also noteworthy: This is Federer's second major final of 2017. After taking off the last half of last year while letting a surgically repaired left knee heal, he won the Australian Open in January for his record-extending 18th Grand Slam trophy.

"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."

Now only Cilic stands in Federer's way at Wimbledon. They met in the quarterfinals a year ago, when Federer came all the way back after dropping the first two sets to win in five, before exiting in the semifinals.

They love their history around these parts and they love Federer and, above all, they love watching him make history. Spectators roared at many of his best offerings against Berdych, who was seeded 11th.

Trailing 3-2 in the third set, for example, Federer faced a couple of break points at 15-40 and extricated himself from that sticky situation this way: ace at 107 mph (173 kph), ace at 116 mph (187 kph), service winner at 120 mph (194 kph), ace at 119 mph (192 kph). And in the very next game, he surged to a 4-3 lead by breaking Berdych. That was pretty much that.

There were other moments of magic. 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.

Still, this would not quite qualify as a vintage, Federer-at-his-wondrous-best performance. He was hardly perfect out there. He even double-faulted twice in one game to get broken in the opening set. He was pushed to a pair of tiebreakers, too. And yet there never was a sense Berdych could win.

Querrey, in contrast, took the first set against Cilic under odd circumstances. Things were close as can be between the pair of 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) big servers in the early going, right up to 6-all in games and 6-all in the tiebreaker. Cilic was playing so cleanly until that moment, delivering 12 winners before his initial unforced error; he would finish with a 70-21 margin.

But Cilic seemed distracted by a delay of a couple of minutes after his first-serve fault at 6-6, when a female spectator who appeared to feel ill was helped from her seat and out of the stands. Awarded another first serve, he managed only a 113 mph offering that Querrey handled easily, and the next stroke was a badly missed backhand by Cilic. Now down 7-6, Cilic flubbed another backhand, pushing it wide to cede the set.

The fourth turned with Querrey up 4-3 and serving at 30-love. Cilic seized the next four points to break, pounding a forehand return winner, a down-the-line backhand winner, another big return that startled Querrey and led to a drop shot winner, and a massive forehand return off a 79 mph (127 kph) second serve that drew a shanked backhand. His lead gone, Querrey yelled, "No!"

"I don't think it was anything that didn't work for Sam. It was more Marin locking in and getting a good read on Sam's serve," said Querrey's coach, Craig Boynton. "I haven't seen someone return Sam's serve like that in a long time."

Venus Williams heading to 9th Wimbledon final, awaits Muguruza

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Venus Williams heading to 9th Wimbledon final, awaits Muguruza

LONDON — All these years later, Wimbledon still brings out the best in Venus Williams.

With her latest display of gutsy serving and big hitting, Williams beat Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2 on Thursday to reach her ninth title match at the All England Club and first since 2009.

At 37, Williams is the oldest Wimbledon finalist since Martina Navratilova was the 1994 runner-up at that age.

Williams also stopped Konta's bid to become the first woman from Britain in 40 years to win the country's Grand Slam tournament.

"I couldn't have asked for more, but I'll ask for a little more. One more win would be amazing," Williams said. "It won't be a given, but I'm going to give it my all."

She will be seeking her sixth Wimbledon championship and eighth Grand Slam singles trophy overall. Her most recent came in 2008, when she defeated her younger sister, Serena, for the title at the All England Club. A year later, she lost the final to Serena.

In the time since, Williams revealed that she was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, which can sap energy and cause joint pain. As time went on, there were questions about whether she might retire, especially after a half-dozen first-round losses at major tournaments. But she kept on going, and lately has returned to winning.

Her resurgence began in earnest at Wimbledon a year ago, when she made it to the semifinals. Then, at the Australian Open in January, Williams reached the final, where she lost to -- yes, you guessed it -- her sister. Serena is off the tour for the rest of this year because she is pregnant.

"I missed her so much before this match. And I was like, `I just wish she was here.' And I was like, `I wish she could do this for me,'" Williams said with a laugh. "And I was like, `No, this time you have to do it for yourself.' So here we are."

On Saturday, the 10th-seeded American will participate in her second Grand Slam final of the season, and 16th of her career, this time against 14th-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

"She knows how to play, especially Wimbledon finals," Muguruza, the 2015 Wimbledon runner-up and 2016 French Open champion, said about Williams. "It's going to be, like, a historic final again."

Muguruza overwhelmed 87th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1 Thursday.

Williams arrived in England a few weeks after being involved in a two-car accident in Florida; not long afterward, a passenger in the other vehicle died. At her initial news conference at Wimbledon, a tearful Williams briefly left the room to compose herself after being asked about the crash.

She has tried, coach David Witt said, to "just focus on the tennis."

In the semifinals, it was Konta who had the first chance to nose ahead, a point from serving from the opening set when it was 4-all and Williams was serving down 15-40.

Williams erased the first break point with a backhand winner down the line, and the second with a 106 mph (171 kph) second serve that went right at Konta's body. It was a risky strategy, going for so much pace on a second serve, but it worked. That opened a run in which Williams won 12 of 13 points.

She wouldn't face another break point and produced another impressive second serve -- in the second set, at 103 mph (166 kph), it went right at Konta, who jumped out of the way.

Konta played quite well, especially early, and finished with more winners, 20 to 19, each greeted by roars from the Centre Court spectators.

"They could have really been even more boisterous. I thought the crowd was so fair. And I know that they love Jo, and she gave it her all today," Williams said. "It's a lot of pressure. It's a lot of pressure. I thought she handled it well. I think my experience just helped a lot."

This was her 10th semifinal in 20 Wimbledon appearances; Konta had never been past the second round at the grass-court tournament before this year.

In the other semifinal, Muguruza won 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 5-0 lead. Even though Rybarikova entered having won 18 of her past 19 grass-court matches, mostly at lower-level tournaments, she suddenly looked a lot more like someone whose career record at Wimbledon before last week was 2-9.

"Not my best day," Rybarikova said. "But she didn't give me much chance to do something."

Muguruza won the point on 19 of 25 trips to the net and had a 22-8 edge in winners.

That earned the 23-year-old Muguruza a berth in her third career Grand Slam final, second at the All England Club. She lost to Serena Williams with the title on the line at Wimbledon in 2015, then beat her at Roland Garros last year.

"I'll have to ask Serena for some pointers," Venus Williams said. "Serena's always in my corner. And usually it's her in these finals, so I'm trying my best to represent `Williams' as best as I can."

2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set, eliminated at Wimbledon

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2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set, eliminated at Wimbledon

LONDON — First, Rafael Nadal erased a two-set deficit. Then, he erased four match points. Nadal could not, however, erase the fifth.

After digging himself out of difficult situations over and over during the course of a riveting encounter that lasted more than 4 hours, Nadal suddenly faltered, getting broken in the last game and losing to 16th-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 15-13 in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Monday.

The surprising defeat extended Nadal's drought without a quarterfinal berth at the All England Club to six years.

He has won two of his 15 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, and played in the final three other times, most recently in 2011. But since then, Nadal's exits at the All England Club have come in the first round (2013), second round (2012, 2015) and fourth round (2014, 2017).

All of those losses, except Monday's, came against men ranked 100th or worse. The 34-year-old Muller is not exactly a giant-killer: He had lost 22 consecutive matches against foes ranked in the top five. And he'd only reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal once before, at the 2008 U.S. Open.

But Muller managed to pull this one out, unfazed but allowing opportunities to pass him by.

Nadal served from behind throughout the final set and was twice a point from losing in its 10th game. He again was twice a point from losing in the 20th. Only when Muller got yet another chance to end it did he, when Nadal got broken by pushing a forehand long.

Nadal entered the match having won 28 consecutive completed sets in Grand Slam play, equaling his personal best and a total exceeded only twice in the Open era. He arrived at the All England Club coming off his record 10th French Open championship, and 15th major trophy overall, and seemed primed to be a factor again at the grass-court tournament.

Muller, though, presented problems. He already owned one victory over Nadal at Wimbledon, back in the second round in 2005.

That was before Nadal figured out how to bring his talents to bear on grass. From 2006-11, Nadal reached the final in five consecutive appearances at Wimbledon (he missed it in 2009 because of bad knees), winning titles in 2008 and 2010.

Muller's next opponent will be 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic.

Other men's quarterfinals matchups are defending champion Andy Murray vs. 24th-seeded Sam Querrey of the U.S., seven-time champion Roger Federer vs. 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych against Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino. The Djokovic-Mannarino fourth-rounder was postponed until Tuesday; it had been scheduled to be played on No. 1 Court after Nadal-Muller concluded.

But that duo played on and on, past 8 p.m., when the descending sun's reflection off a part of No. 1 Court bothered Nadal so much that he held up the action in the fifth set. Chair umpire Ali Nili asked spectators to stand in the way and block the rays. A few games later, Nili told fans to stop doing the wave so play could resume, suggesting they wait for the next changeover to resume.

Despite playing as cleanly as can be in the opening set -- zero unforced errors -- Nadal could not solve Muller's big serves and aggressive forays to the net for crisp volleys. There was more of the same in the second set. After only 75 minutes of play, Nadal appeared to be in serious trouble.

But Nadal adjusted. He stepped a little farther behind the baseline to give himself more time to react to Muller's power. He also began to have more success with his own serve, winding up with 23 aces, an unusually high total for Nadal and only seven fewer than Muller.

Still, things were not looking good when Nadal served while down 5-4 in the fifth set. He double-faulted to trail 15-40. On Muller's initial match point, Nadal delivered a 116 mph (187 kph) ace to a corner. On the next, at 30-40, he spun a 103 mph (166 kph) second serve at an extreme angle, drawing a forehand return into the net. Nadal's four-point, game-ending, match-saving flourish ended with a 120 mph (194 kph) service winner and a 121 mph ace. He celebrated with three shouts of "Come on!" and some violent fist pumps. In the stands, his girlfriend stood and punched the air and yelled, "Si!"

The match, of course, was not yet over. It would continue for 18 more games and 1 more hours.

Muller's next two match points came when he had a 10-9 lead. Nadal deleted the first with a volley winner, and the second disappeared when Muller shanked a return of a 94 mph (152 kph) second serve.

The fifth set alone lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes, and Nadal could not manage to complete what would have been his fourth career comeback from two sets down -- and first in a decade.

Instead, it was Muller who was able to enjoy a win that seemed to be slipping away.