In the first round at Wimbledon, Roger Federer found himself with his back against the wall, down two sets to one against Adrian Mannarino, who retired after the fourth set due to the effects of a fall on Centre Court. Yet one week later, Federer beat 23rd seed Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets to reach his 18th Wimbledon quarter-final.
“To some extent it’s nice to see that the work I put in paid off [and] that I’m able to play at this level with best-of-five sets,” Federer said.
There was plenty of uncertainty entering this tournament for the 39-year-old, who turns 40 in just more than a month. Last year, the Swiss star underwent two arthroscopic right knee surgeries. Before beginning his run at the All England Club, he had only tallied a 5-3 record in 2021.
“When you’re young, you don’t ask yourself the question. But when you’re me, with the year I had, it’s all question marks all over the place. You have to prove it again to yourself that you can actually do it,” Federer said. “I was willing to take losses for the sake of information, just to be out there, [to] get the body in shape for hopefully when Wimbledon comes around,m that I can actually wake up in the morning and feel all right, that I can still go out and play five sets.
“I feel that way, so it’s very rewarding and it’s a good feeling. Now we’ll see how much more I’ve got left in the tank. Clearly [it] was important again to win in straight sets. [I am] looking forward to the next round.”
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Federer is tied with Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam singles titles with 20. And now, at an event where he has lifted eight trophies, the father of four is now just three wins from claiming a record 21st major crown.
Monday’s triumph against Sonego was Federer’s 118th match at Wimbledon, where he is 105-13. Despite all that experience, he is still learning more with every match. In this case, through four matches he has adjusted to the conditions on Centre Court.
“It was very interesting when the roof shut again [towards the end of the first set]. I could see that it was getting a little bit more slippery again. The humidity goes up, whereas I didn’t break a sweat really on the outside. It was windy, it was fresh. Still it played faster,” Federer said. “When you play indoors, it’s just much slower… I think also that was definitely one of the reasons maybe I struggled against Mannarino. On top of it, he got the upper hand from the baseline.”
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Federer thought that once the roof was closed, Sonego struggled to make an impact on him with his serve. The Italian hit at least 12 aces in each of his first three matches, but he managed just four against the Swiss.
“It’s just amazing the difference an indoor and an outdoor situation can do,” Federer said. “You would think that indoors is easier to ace. I don’t feel it’s the case. I feel like you have to put extra power in your shots [so] that something happens. I think that was one of the reasons for me that I maybe struggled early on, because you can become very insecure when you don’t get your service winners.”
Overall, Federer is pleased with his efforts in advancing to the last eight. Now the sixth seed will prepare to face second seed Daniil Medvedev or Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz next.
“Now I’ve had some good progress. I’m taking the ball earlier. Obviously I’ve gotten used to the conditions, gotten used to the balls, the court speed. I’m able to take more balls on the rise, on the half-volley,” Federer said. “All these little things make a difference at the end of the day.”