LONDON (AP) — There was Roger Federer, so famous for his flawless footwork, flat on his stomach, face down and motionless on the Centre Court grass after jamming the toe of his left shoe and stumbling during what turned out to be the fifth set’s pivotal game in his Wimbledon semifinal.
And, a little earlier Friday, there was Federer, so successful through the years thanks in part to such a pinpoint serve, double-faulting two times in a row — What?! Really?! — while getting broken to drop the fourth set.
Two miscues of the sort you’re just not used to seeing from him all that often.
Two moments that even Federer found hard to fathom.
Once seemingly on the verge of a victory that would have given him a record 11th berth in the Wimbledon final, and a shot at an unprecedented eighth men’s championship at the All England Club, Federer lost his way and the match, beaten 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 by sixth-seeded Milos Raonic.
“This one clearly hurts, because I felt I could have had it. So close,” said Federer, who had his surgically repaired left knee checked by a trainer after the uncharacteristic fall and wasn’t sure whether he was seriously injured. “It was really so, so close.”
Federer, owner of 17 major trophies in all, was merely one point from serving for the match when, ahead two sets to one, he got to 30-40 on Raonic’s serve at 4-all in the fourth. But the 25-year-old Raonic, the first man from Canada to reach a Grand Slam final, cast aside that break point with a 139 mph service winner. Soon, he was in charge.
“I sort of persevered. I was sort of plugging away,” said Raonic, whose serve reached 144 mph, produced 23 aces and saved eight of nine break points. “I was struggling through many parts of the match. He gave me a little opening towards the end of the fourth. I made the most of it.”
Carlos Moya — one of Raonic’s trio of coaches, including three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe — said Federer “kind of opened the door for Milos to have a chance to come back. At this stage of the tournament, you pay for that.”
On Sunday, Raonic will face No. 2 Andy Murray, who easily eliminated No. 10 Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the second semifinal. Murray beat Raonic on grass in the Queen’s Club final three weeks ago.
It will be Murray’s 11th major final; he’s won only two so far, including at Wimbledon in 2013, when he gave Britain its first men’s champion at the tournament in 77 years. But this is Murray’s first Grand Slam title match against someone other than Federer or Novak Djokovic.
“You learn from those matches, for sure,” said Murray, who’s 29. “The older you get, you never know how many chances you’re going to have.”
Federer, who turns 35 on Aug. 8, would have been the oldest finalist at the All England Club since 1974. He remains tied with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1800s) with seven titles at Wimbledon, most recently in 2012, and was the runner-up to Djokovic the past two years.
Maybe this time Federer ran out of steam, forced to play 10 sets in his last two matches, including a quarterfinal comeback from two sets down against Marin Cilic on Wednesday.
Two years ago, Federer got past Raonic in straight sets in the Wimbledon semifinals. This time, Federer flinched the way he seemingly never used to.
Serving to get to a tiebreaker at 6-5 in the fourth set, Federer went up 40-love. After a forehand winner by Raonic, the unthinkable: Those back-to-back double-faults to let Raonic back into the game. Eventually, Raonic took advantage of a soft volley to deliver a down-the-line backhand passing winner, breaking for the first time since the match’s fourth game — which ended with a double-fault by Federer — and sending the semifinal to a fifth set.
“I can’t believe I served a double-fault twice. Unexplainable for me, really,” Federer said. “Very sad about that and angry at myself because never should I allow him to get out of that set that easily.”
He went up a break at 3-1 in the fifth by winning the game in which Federer tripped — and contributed yet another double-fault.
“I hope it’s not so bad. I walked it off. I was able to finish,” Federer said. “But I don’t slip a lot. I don’t ever fall down. It was a different fall for me than I’ve ever had.”
Asked how badly he might have been injured, Federer replied: “I don’t know yet. I don’t even want to know. I just felt not the same afterwards.”
This has been a difficult season for Federer, who never needed an operation until having his knee’s torn cartilage repaired in February.
He’s also had back issues, missed the French Open to end a 65-appearance streak at majors, and came to Wimbledon without a title in 2016.
“You’re playing who Roger is today,” Raonic said, “not who he’s been the past few years.”
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