The number ‘100’ is proving an important one for Roger Federer in 2019.
Earlier this year, the 37-year-old Swiss earned his 100th tour-level title in Dubai. And on Wednesday, Federer beat No. 8 seed Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to earn his 100th Wimbledon match win, advancing to the semi-finals at the All England Club for a record 13th time.
Eight-time champion Federer is the first player in history to earn 100 victories at a Grand Slam championship. Former World No. 1 Jimmy Connors had been closest to accomplishing the feat before Federer’s run this fortnight. The American won 98 matches at the US Open.
“It’s special… It’s been a lot of years I’ve been coming here. That’s given me the opportunity to win a lot, naturally.
I didn’t think of it while I was playing today. Actually not at all, not once. Then as I’m signing, the guy says, ‘Congratulations for your 100,'” Federer said. “It’s nice, because if I look back at the hundred that have happened, some were so incredibly cool. Today again was a big match going into the semis [to face] Rafa, now that he won. A hundred wins here at Wimbledon. Who would have thought? I didn’t, for sure.”
Most Wins By Grand Slam
The second seed’s triumph also sets the stage for his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon since their legendary 2008 final. Nadal defeated American Sam Querrey on No. 1 Court to advance to the semi-finals.
“[He has] improved so much over the years on this surface. He’s playing also very different than he used to. Haven’t played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He’s serving way different. I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points,” Federer said. “A lot of them are saying, ‘Oh, it’s the end,’ by 2008. Similar to me in ’09. We’re still here, so it’s nice to play each other again.”
After losing his first set of the tournament against South African Lloyd Harris, Federer won 12 consecutive sets to cruise into the quarter-finals. But Nishikori, who beat Federer in their most recent match at last year’s Nitto ATP Finals, came out firing from the first point, going up 2-0 and earning three break points to take a 3-0, double-break lead, before the Swiss was able to hold and get on the board.
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Nishikori was succeeding at the start of the match by taking the ball early and earning the first strike in rallies, keeping Federer from controlling points himself. And even though the Swiss maintained contact by avoiding going down a double-break, Nishikori took care of his serve, saving the lone break point he faced in the opener to take the lead.
From there, Federer significantly raised his level, punctuating a break to love in his first return game of the second set with a massive inside-in forehand winner. He used the momentum of that moment to cruise through the set, making just one unforced error in the set to even the match.
Nishikori, who made five straight Grand Slam quarter-finals, did not let Federer race away, saving a break point in the first game of the third set. But at 3-3, Federer got a ton of topspin on a forehand approach shot, dipping it right onto the baseline for a winner to break.
As he did throughout the match, Nishikori battled hard to avoid going down two sets to one, lacing a crosscourt forehand return winner at 4-5, 30/30 to earn a chance to get back on serve. But Federer was undeterred, staving off that chance and later crushing a swinging forehand volley to take the set.
Federer broke at 4-4 in the fourth set after Nishikori missed just long to end a long rally. And the Swiss wasted no time moving into the last four, holding to love.
The difference was Federer’s serve, as he won 81 per cent of his first-serve points compared to just 57 per cent for Nishikori. In addition to saving five of the six break points he faced, the Swiss was also ruthlessly efficient in the forecourt against one of the best passing shot players in the sport, winning 81 per cent (25/31) of his net points.
Federer will meet Nadal at Wimbledon for the fourth time. They clashed on the historic London lawns each year from 2006-08, with Federer triumphing on the first two occasions to lift the trophy and Nadal claiming his maiden crown at The Championships in 2008. Nadal, who beat Federer in the Roland Garros semi-finals, leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 24-15.
“I feel like conditions were slightly different. It was so windy, as you know. It was just insane. I haven’t heard it was going to be the same in a couple of days, so I hope not, even though that would be funny again,” Federer said of their recent clash in Paris. “It’s going to be tough. Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface. I mean, he’s that good. He’s not just a clay-court specialist.”
Did You Know?
Federer is trying to become the first man in the Open Era to win five Grand Slam titles after
turning 30. He is one of four men to have won four major trophies in the Open Era after his 30th birthday, alongside Rod
Laver, Nadal and Ken Rosewall.
Source: ATP World Tour