LONDON – Five quick thoughts from men’s semifinal Friday at Wimbledon.
• Roger Federer is into still another Wimbledon final with a 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 6-4 over Tomas Berdych on Centre Court on Friday. This was Federer at his most Federerian. Apart from the usual compendium of he-did-NOT-just-do-that shots, Federer played with great poise, especially in the tiebreakers. He served well, he moved with grace, he played angles that other players scarcely know exist. His stat sheet—53 winners to 20 errors—tells plenty. He now advances to the final without dropping a set. And he is three sets away from still another title here, a full 14 years after the first.
• Tomas Berdych may have run out of grass shoes for his feet (he borrowed a pair from Novak Djokovic) but he should leave with his head held high. The Czech veteran played well to reach the semifinal and may have played even better in the Round of Four on Friday. Unfortunately for Berdych, the opponent played a smidge better, especially at the critical junctures. Berdych pushed Federer to a pair tiebreaks. He gave up a break in the third set. And—like that—he is eliminated. Berdych is a terrific player who simply has the misfortune of playing at the same time as players just marginally better.
• Marin Cilic reached his first Wimbledon final with an immaculately-played semifinal match against Sam Querrey, prevailing 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5. Last time Cilic played on Centre Court (in the 2016 quarters), he squandered match points and lost to Roger Federer. On Friday, he met the occasion with courage, clubbing 70 winners to 21 unforced errors—a remarkable ration for a flat slugger who plays Big Boy tennis—and elevating after losing the first tiebreaker. “Mentally I was really pleased with myself especially in the critical moments,” he said. Cilic may not win Sunday. But he won his first four matches without dropping a set. In the semifinals, he played for nearly three hours but it was hardly a grinding match. If nothing else, he will be well rested and put himself in as favorable a position as possible.
• Last year Sam Querrey came to Wimbledon, beat the defending champand reached the quarterfinals. This year he came to Wimbledon, beat the defending champ and reached the semifinals. Along the way, he won three straight five-setters. Querrey had a few costly hiccups on Friday, but what a tournament. And, now firmly embedded in the top 25, Querrey becomes the only active American man to reach a Grand Slam semi.After the match he was asked, “Where do you go from here?” His response: “I'm going home. Then my next tournament is in Cabo San Lucas.” Well played and well earned.
• Bring on the women. Brilliant as Federer has been at nearly 36 years old, he may well be the younger of the two Wimbledon singles champs. Venus Williams, age 37, takes the court on Saturday trying to win her eighth major, sixth Wimbledon and first since 2008. In the absence of the defending champ and last player to beat her in a major final—who happens to be her kid sister, now pregnant—Venus enters tomorrow’s final against Garbine Muguruza as a slight favorite. We say it again: for as many times as we’ve heard the tale of the Williams Sisters, it remains the Greatest Sports Story Ever Told.