Canada has its first men’s Grand Slam finalist in Milos Raonic, 25, who emerged the victor after
a dramatic 5-setter at the All-England Club this afternoon. The match was decided by the fifth set, but it really came down to the fourth. After a lackluster first set, it seemed this wouldn’t be Roger Federer’s year with Raonic pulling through that set without much of a fight from the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
“I showed a lot of emotion, always positive,” said Raonic to BBC Sport. “Mentally I had one of
my best matches of my career.” Coming into the match, Roger Federer was 10-0 on Wimbledon semifinals and had a winning
record against Raonic. Federer showed true grit in the second set by demonstrating why he is so
good in tie breaks and won it 7-6. He then went on to dominate the third set while the Canadian
floundered. “I was struggling there through the third and fourth sets. He was playing some really good
tennis,” said the number six seed. It all came down to the deciding fourth set. Raonic rallied back and both players were evenly matched. So many games came down to who could break serve. They stayed even until Federer’s
serve gave out towards the end. Just when it was looking like we would be going to another tie-
break, with Federer leading his serve game at 40-0, he double-faulted twice in a row to a stunned
crowd. Raonic fired off a backhand win just past him to cinch the set. If it had gone to a tie-
break, Roger Federer would have had a chance, where he is usually so good. But his nerve left
him and Raonic took his second set.
“I can’t believe I served a double fault twice,” Federer told BBC Sport. “Unexplainable for me
really. Very sad about that and angry at myself because never should I allow him to get out of
that set that easily.”
The world number seven double faulted more than the Swiss champion (11 to Federer’s 5), but
not during a moment when the stakes were so high. Raonic’s first serves were in 68% of the time
compared to Federer’s 61%. That barely describes the quality of the Canadian’s serves, however,
which were much faster, clocking in the tournament’s quickest speed at 144 mph (compared to
Federer’s 126). Raonic made more unforced errors (40) compared to the man who perfected the
game with a customary low number of 14. However, Federer came up with much less winners
and here’s where Raonic excelled, hitting 75 winners compared with his opponent’s 49.
But the biggest statistic of the match was the ability to capitalize and this is where Federer’s
nerve failed him. He had 9 break chances and was able to convert only 1. Although Raonic
gained less break point chances (8), he was able to convert three of them and most crucially of
all at the end of that fourth set.
By the time it got to the fifth, the match was pretty much decided and some of the momentum
left Roger Federer. His ankle buckled under him when he struggled to return one of Raonic’s
winners, he called for the trainer twice, but mostly he looked somewhat deflated. Perhaps his
grueling quarterfinal match with Marin Cilic two days ago was starting to influence his stamina.
Whatever the reasons, by the time the fifth set started, Milos Raonic was in control and playing
for history. With the win, he is now the first Canadian men’s player to reach a Grand Slam final.
“Oh, Canada,” indeed.
He gave credit to the newest member of his coaching team, performing double duty during this
fortnight as both coach to Raonic and commentator for ESPN, John McEnroe.
“What he told me today is: ‘Go out there, leave it all out there,’” Raonic said to BBC Sport.
The semifinal loss for Federer means that he will still remain tied with Pete Sampras and
William Renshaw with seven Wimbledon wins. He is also tied with Pete Sampras (and Jimmy
Connors) for most US Open titles (in the Open Era) and that tournament is his last chance at the
ever elusive number 18 Grand Slam if he’s going to do it this year. But Federer still says there’s
juice left in the tank.
“I mean, yes, while I’m in the tournament, it’s a dream to win my eighth,” he said. And he plans
on coming back for next year.
At age 34, ranked still three in the world, he continues to defy the odds of age in the sport of
Milos Raonic is next set to face Great Britain’s Andy Murray. Roger Federer is such a popular
sportsman at this tournament that if he was going to face Murray, there was still a question as to
who the crowd would be rooting for on Sunday. With Murray also pulling into the final (with a
much easier win over Berdych), Raonic will certainly have his work cut out for him trying to get
the partisan crowd on his side.