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Federer is frustrated after being floored in SW19 epic

By Matt Gatward

As Roger Federer sped across court, his left foot got stuck in the grass, he stumbled, fell, threw his racket in vain, hit the floor and lay face down on the Centre Court grass.

It is not often the Swiss is flat out but the crowd sensed it was the moment Milos Raonic had delivered the telling blow.

Raonic's passing shot had created a break point at 2-1 in the fifth and deciding set of this epic semi-final that had Centre Court bouncing with excitement.

Federer saved it when he returned to his feet but he could not save the game, the set or the match, Raonic winning a Wimbledon thriller 6-3 6-7 4-6 7-5 6-3 in three hours and 25 minutes.

The dream of an eighth title is, for now, over for the 34-year-old, but Raonic, 25, is contemplating his first Grand Slam final, which is tomorrow against home favourite Andy Murray.

It was an epic contest that swung one way, the other and then back again. Raonic looked like he would run away with it, booming down serves in the first set that had Federer staggering.

But the crowd favourite fought back beautifully, pinging one-handed winners down both flanks. He won the second set on a tie-break, the third with a single break and was bossing the fourth.

The World No.3 created break points but could not take them, and Raonic, perhaps sensing this was his time, clung on grimly.

At 6-5, with Federer serving to take the set to a tie-break, he inexplicably double-faulted twice and it was two sets all.

"I'm very sad about that and angry at myself because I never should have allowed him to get out of that set that easily. Something went wrong," Federer, who had won all 10 of his previous Wimbledon semi-finals, said.

"I can't believe I served a double fault twice."

Suddenly, Raonic, who had looked like he was heading the same way as so many of Federer's opponents before him, found reserves of endeavour and energy and he tipped the balance back in his favour.

He finally finished off the Swiss - who, unusually for him, twice called for the trainer - in the fifth and proved that there is much more to his game than just a booming serve.

Once he'd broken in that epic fourth game of the last set, the Canadian cantered away, Federer unable to dent the big man's serve. It looked like it would all be over much quicker than it was during the first set, which clocked just over half an hour.

Federer could barely lay a racket on the serve of Raonic, who has John McEnroe in his corner as coaching consultant and who has improved his approach play and volleying as a result, was hitting 143-144mph boomers to both wings of the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who could only offer a swing and a miss or was unable to control his efforts.

The relentlessness played on Federer, who could hardly catch his breath, and he was broken in the fourth game.

Federer had a peek at 0-30 on the Raonic serve at 2-4 but after a boom, biff, bang and a wallop, the door was slammed and the Canadian served out the set.

Set two went with serve as Raonic and Federer traded blows until, with Federer 5-4 up, he created three break points when his younger opponent double-faulted.

The crowd, firmly behind the Swiss hero of SW19, roared Federer on but Raonic fought back and saved the lot, one with a deft volley. The set was tie-break-bound, and Federer took it 7-3 after Raonic double-faulted for the sixth time at 3-3.

During the third set, Federer seemed to be pulling away. In the sixth game, he whipped a forehand deep into the territory of Raonic, who, pushed for time, mis-hit his own forehand into the tramlines.

Federer, normally so cool, so undemonstrative, so steady, screamed to his corner and pumped his fist.

He had finally broken the booming Raonic serve. He took the set and seemed on course for victory.

Raonic was ranting at himself, his composure of set one long gone. He was rushing his shots, chasing the game and making more and more unforced errors.

It was time for the kill, but Federer could not quite convert his chances or the Canadian drudged up huge serves to save his skin. Then double disaster struck for Federer with his serving errors and the players were heading for a decider - the momentum had swung again.

"There were opportunities for me all around the fourth set," Federer said. "I pushed him on a few service games to get the break. But somehow I couldn't get it done.

"Either he served well or he hit the line on the serve. It was always going to come down to a few shots here and there. Unfortunately they went his way. It's disappointing for me."

This time, not even the genius of Federer could hold back the Raonic waves and he missed out on the chance of that tantalising eighth title.

It will be of little solace that over three days of the second week of Wimbledon, he gave Centre Court two epics that will live long in the memory.

Belfast Telegraph


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