Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer has made a career of defying expectations and beating the odds. The 39-year-old has proven he still has what it takes after becoming the oldest Wimbledon quarter-finalist in the Open Era – now, he’ll have to draw from long experience to keep his run going on Wednesday.
Federer anchors the bottom half of the draw at SW19, with seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz and 16th Felix Auger-Aliassime all in uncharted territory as they vie for their first Wimbledon semi-final berth.
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Sixth seed Federer, who is eyeing his 13th appearance in the last four, will be facing a player who idolised him as a child when he meets Hurkacz. The 24-year-old from Poland grew up practising gymnastics, basketball and football as well as tennis, but settled on tennis after watching the Swiss superstar.[TENNIS POINT]
“Obviously Roger is a special player. What he’s achieved throughout his whole career, it’s unbelievable. The way he plays is also special… He was big inspiration for me,” Hurkacz said after his fourth-round upset over Daniil Medvedev. “Being out there playing quarter-finals against him, it’s really amazing. But obviously I’m out there to play my best and give myself best chance of winning the match.”
It’s an increasingly familiar position for 39-year-old Federer, who is bidding to become the oldest man to reach the semi-finals at a Grand Slam since Ken Rosewall at the 1977 Australian Open, aged 42. A few weeks ago in Halle, 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime named Federer his ‘idol’ before taking him down in a second-round upset.
The Canadian, who faces seventh seed Berrettini, looms in his section as a potential semi-final opponent. But Federer won’t be the same player who struggled to string wins together in the buildup to Wimbledon, his fifth tournament of the season as he continues to make his way back from knee surgeries.
Federer has raised his level round by round after dodging an early test from Adrian Mannarino, who retired in the fourth set in the first round. He has raced past Richard Gasquet and taken down 29th seed Cameron Norrie and 23rd seed Lorenzo Sonego to reach his first quarter-final since the 2020 Australian Open.
“It’s nice to see that the work I put in paid off, that I’m able to play at this level with best-of-five sets. Playing five days in a row is different than playing best-of-five sets every second day,” Federer said.
“All that stuff, 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.”
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) July 4, 2021
The winner of Federer and Hurkacz will take on an in-form player in either seventh seed Berrettini or 16th seed Auger-Aliassime, who will have to put their friendship aside in order to reach their first Wimbledon semi-final.
Berrettini and Auger-Aliassime, whose girlfriends Ajla Tomljanovic and Nina are cousins, are often spotted hanging out together off the tennis court. They’ve had dinner together and watched the Euros while in the bubble this fortnight, but when they hit the court it will be all business.
“We’re able to make the difference between what happens on the court and off the court,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Matteo is a good friend, first of all. I can chat with him, have dinner with him. Of course, when the day of the match comes, then you focus on what you have to do. You try to play your best tennis and win.”
Auger-Aliassime is one of two Canadians into the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, and he’s bidding to become the youngest man to reach the last four at Wimbledon since Djokovic (20 years 47 days) in 2007. After navigating past a tricky section that included Nick Kyrgios (retirement), the 16th seed recorded a statement win over fourth seed Alexander Zverev in five sets to advance to this stage at a Grand Slam for the first time.
Berrettini will come into the matchup with the edge in experience, having been to the semi-finals at the US Open in 2019 (l. to Nadal), as well as the lead in their ATP Head2Head. The Italian claimed a hard-fought victory in their only previous meeting in the Stuttgart 2019 final, but he had to play “one of the best matches I ever played on grass” to achieve it.
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“I feel I am playing for sure the best tennis of my career. [In] 2019 I was playing good, but everything was kind of new. I had to adjust a little bit,” Berrettini reflected after his fourth-round win over Ilya Ivashka. “Now I have more confidence for sure, more experience as well. I know I can achieve my best results like I’m doing quarters in Paris, quarters here. Obviously the tournament is not done yet. I’m really looking forward to achieving even more.”
Since their 2019 meeting, Berrettini and Auger-Aliassime have continued their upward trajectory. The seventh seed came into SW19 after winning titles at the Serbia Open and The Queen’s Club, his first ATP 500 triumph. Auger-Aliassime returned to the Stuttgart final this year, the eighth final of his career (0-8).
Potential Wimbledon Semi-final ATP Head2Heads (bottom half):
Federer trails Auger-Aliassime 0-1
Federer leads Berrettini 2-0
Hurkacz leads Berrettini 1-0
Hurkacz trails Auger-Aliassime 0-2
Did You Know?
Of the eight players to reach the men’s singles quarter-finals here, six are contesting their first Wimbledon quarter-finals – equalling the Open Era record for most first-time men’s singles quarter-finalists at Wimbledon (also 1991 and 2002).