Roger Federer made quick work of Milos Raonic on Friday to advance to his ninth Wimbledon final. (Reuters)
LONDON — Roger Federer reached a ninth Wimbledon final after emerging unscathed from the crosshairs of bullet-serving giant Milos Raonic, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 with a masterful display of the grasscourt arts on Friday.
Chasing a record eighth title at the All England Club, Federer set up a mouthwatering final against top seed and 2011 champion Novak Djokovic with an almost casual demolition of the 23-year-old Canadian, who looked overawed by the magnitude of the occasion.
Djokovic took care of business against another 23-year-old wonderboy in Grigor Dimitrov, who had upset defending champion Andy Murray in the previous round. Dimitrov didn’t have the same luck against Djokovic, who survived a back-and-forth battle for a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7) victory.
Federer, a 17-time grand slam champion, broke in the opening game and then comfortably saw out the first set before breaking decisively in the ninth games of both the second and third sets, with his opponent unable to gain a foothold in the match.
The 32-year-old Swiss played most of the match at walking pace and finished off his opponent in one hour and 41 minutes, clenching his fist in a restrained celebration when Raonic hit a backhand return wide on match point.
“I think that was unbelievably effective,” said Federer, who has been in imperious form on the grass this year after winning in Halle and motoring through the early rounds at Wimbledon. “I am extremely happy to be in another final. I have played some great tennis, under pressure as well at times because I didn’t play so well here last year.”
“My game’s back where I hoped it would be from one year ago. Things were difficult all of last year, most of the year, so I’m happy I worked hard off the court to get myself back into shape and back into contention for tournaments.”
There were flashes of the old genius, notably in the fourth game as he dispatched a forehand volley with such nonchalance that he barely broke into a jog in moving across the net to anticipate a rasping Raonic pass.
He faced one break point in the first set that he claimed in 34 minutes and then pulled up the drawbridge with a series of solid service games before effectively sealing the second set by stepping on the gas at 4-4.
Having reached a 25th grand slam final, Federer will face Djokovic in Sunday’s showpiece with the confidence of an 18-16 winning record against the Serb.
Djokovic was in a self-critical mood on Friday after he allowed Dimitrov, playing his first grand slam semifinal, to push him to four tense sets on Centre Court.
“I was frustrated because I, again, allowed my opponent to come back into the match … I was a set and a break up and, again, made some unforced errors and gave my opponent a hope that he could win,” he said. “That’s something that I definitely cannot allow myself in the final against Roger. They have a similar game, so it was good to play a longer match and to understand the way I need to prepare for Roger.”
It was the third time during the tournament that Djokovic had been taken to four sets.
“I have been going through some tough matches during this tournament,” he said. “I’m going to try to use that experience in a positive way and encourage myself to get a title.”
Also playing on the 27-year-old Serb’s mind is the fact that he has only one title to show for his four most recent appearances in major finals.
“Losing three out of my past four grand slam finals, it cannot be satisfying,” he said. “I should have won a few of the matches I lost in finals over the past couple of years.”
Federer has an 18-16 advantage in matches against Djokovic and has beaten the Serb twice in the past.
But Djokovic does have the 2011 Wimbledon title under his belt, plus five other grand slam triumphs —but he admitted that he will need mental toughness Sunday against Federer.
“The key against him is to not allow him to dictate too much, because he likes to be very aggressive, he likes to come to the net,” Djokovic said.