by Kevin Craig
Roger Federer added to his legacy with one of the most entertaining and astounding wins of his career on Wednesday at Wimbledon as he came back from two sets down to defeat Marin Cilic, 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3.
“Today was epic,” said the former No. 1 player in the world.
Federer, who is in search of a record eighth Wimbledon title and first major title since 2012, not only was down two sets, but also down 0-40 midway through the third set, as well as being down three match points at various times throughout the fourth set.
“I fought. I tried. I believed…At the end I got it done,” said Federer, who turns 35 in just over a month. “For me the dream continues. I couldn’t be happier.”
The 17-time major champion made it sound simple, but the comeback was one for the history books as he earned his 10th win from a two set deficit.
A straightforward first set that saw no breaks and just two break points, both on Cilic’s serve, required a tiebreak to separate the two. It was the 2014 US Open champion who capitalized, racing out to a 5-0 lead on Centre Court before eventually taking it 7-4.
The second set was slightly less straightforward, as Cilic, who had been 52-0 in matches where he was able to take a two sets lead, was able to earn the first break of the match for a 2-1 lead before fighting off a break point in the next game to consolidate. There were no issues from there for the Croat as he lost just two points in his next three service games to close out the set and put himself just one set away from the Wimbledon semifinals.
Once again, the servers dominated in the third set as only five points went against serve in the first six games of the set. It was in that always crucial seventh game, though, that Cilic looked to be just a few points away from the finish line. At 3-3, the No. 9 seed earned a 0-40 lead on Federer’s serve before the Suisse, who hit 27 aces and zero double faults in the match, somehow worked out of that hole and used the momentum to break in the next game for a 5-3 lead. A comfortable hold in the next game signaled to Cilic and the tennis world that Federer wouldn’t go down that easily.
“That switched the momentum,” said Cilic, discussing his missed opportunities at 3-3.
The fourth set, like the first, saw no breaks, but there was a multitude of chances for both players throughout. Each had to fight out of a 15-40 hole early in the set to hold before Cilic had a 30-40 lead in consecutive Federer service games, one at 5-4 and one at 6-5, meaning both opportunities were match points. The Croat again was unable to convert on the big points, leaving the door open for Federer to stage an epic comeback.
The tiebreak was full of breathtaking and tense moments as the players were never separated by more than two points and it required 20 points to be decided. After fending off another match point at 6-7 in the tiebreak, Federer rattled off four of the next six points to shock the Croat and force a deciding fifth set.
After an early challenge in the decider from Cilic, Federer settled in and looked like the potential greatest player of all time that so many have grown to love over the course of his career. After pressuring Cilic’s serve to no avail at 3-2, he repeated the act at 4-3 and was successful this time, setting up an opportunity to serve for the match. No mistakes were made as Federer held to 15, thanks to two aces, for the win and set up a date with Milos Raonic in the semifinals.
“To be out there again fighting, being in a physical battle and winning it is an unbelievable feeling…it was an emotional win,” said Federer, who is hoping to become the oldest major title winner since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open at the age of 37 in 1972.
“It’s great winning matches like these, coming back from two sets to love. It’s rare. When it happens, you really enjoy them.”