After both Roger Federer and Andy Murray were given major scares in the quarterfinals, the two favorites for the Wimbledon crown will look to book their spots in the Wimbledon final on Friday. But after surviving over five sets last time out, neither Federer nor Murray is liable to take anything for granted going up against Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych, respectively.
Roger Federer vs. Milos Raonic (8 a.m. EDT)
Federer, in particular, has already used up a second life at SW19. The Swiss great trailed Marin Cilic two sets to love on Wednesday and looked set to be blown off the court by the big-hitting former U.S. Open champion when facing three break points midway through the third set. But somehow, someway, the seven-time Wimbledon champion turned the match into one of his vintage performances, saving three match points on his way to a famous win.
And for Federer the win was even sweeter given that his 2016 season has been blighted by injuries, playing just 12 matches between the Australian Open and Wimbledon and sitting out the French Open.
“What I like about being in a fifth set is you actually get really tested to see where is your fitness, where is your mind at, can your shoulders, your back, your legs sustain three hours and 17 minutes of hitting big serves, running and being explosive,” he said.
“I was feeling as good at the end as at the beginning. That gives me a lot of confidence moving forward from here. I feel like I’ve clearly got a chance in the semis, even after a match like this.”
His head-to-head record against Raonic should also give Federer confidence, having won nine of their previous 11 meetings. And the biggest match they’ve played to date came at Wimbledon at the same semifinal stage two years ago, when Federer blew away the Canadian in straight sets.
That was Raonic’s first Grand Slam semifinal, but the big-serving 25-year-old has shown plenty of signs of growth this year, pushing Andy Murray all the way in the semifinals of the Australian Open and reaching the finals in Indian Wells and the Wimbledon tune-up event at Queen’s Club. And, like Federer, Raonic has already come back from the brink at Wimbledon, overcoming a two-set deficit to David Goffin in the fourth round before beating American Sam Querrey in four sets in the quarterfinals.
“I look forward to it a lot,” said Raonic. “[It’s] a great opportunity. Two years have passed since I played him here in the semifinals. I’m happy that I have another shot at him.
“I think from every aspect I’ve improved. I know what it need to do on court better, I know how to turn things around to get them on my terms, I know what I’m looking for, I know how to go about it. And when things aren’t going well I know what things to look for to change. So from all those things, I’m definitely a lot more aware.”
Prediction: Raonic in five sets
Andy Murray vs. Tomas Berdych (following the completion of Federer vs. Raonic)
Murray also came perilously close to defeat in the quarterfinals, although in a match that was the reverse of Federer’s travails. The second seed took a two-set lead against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and appeared on the verge of sealing a fifth successive straight-sets win of the tournament. However, Tsonga fought back spectacularly, leveling the match and then earning a break point at the start of the final set. But Murray, showing a very different but arguably just as impressive resolve as Federer earlier in the day, refused to see his hopes of a second Wimbledon title disappear, winning the fifth set 6-1.
“I think it can give you a bit of confidence,” Murray said after the win. “It can help to go thorough games and stage sin matches that are challenging, so that if you are in that position in the next couple of matches you’ve been there. So I’m hoping it helps me in the next couple of rounds.”
Murray has yet to lose a match since Ivan Lendl, the man who was in his corner when he ended Britain’s long wait for a British male Wimbledon champion in 2013, returned as his coach at the start of the grass-court season.
One man unlikely to be thrilled at seeing the two reunited is Murray’s next opponent. Berdych was keen to take on his fellow Czech Lendl as a coach 18 months ago, but in the end settled for another former member of Murray’s coaching team, Dani Vallverdu.
Those two parted ways in March after Berdych made a poor start to the year, with the 30-year-old making it clear he needed to act quickly in order to turn his consistent placing in the world’s top 10 into a long sought after Grand Slam title.
The closest he came to fulfilling that dream came at Wimbledon six years ago when he lost in the final to Rafael Nadal. He is now just one win away from that position again, having come through the draw largely unnoticed. A winner over Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals, Berdych has yet to face a player ranked inside the top 25. He can now expect a huge leap in quality when taking on Murray, who has come out on top in the pair’s last four meetings.
Prediction: Murray in four sets