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By Chris Oddo | Thursday July 13, 2017

 
Roger Federer

There was shock and there was serenity at Wimbledon on Day 9, and now it's Roger Federer's Championships to win.

Photo Source: Ashley Western/Camera Sport

He came to Wimbledon, improbably, as the favorite to win his 19th major title. Roger Federer now heads into the weekend as the HEAVY favorite, and he’s playing the regal, efficient tennis that has been his calling card on the grass since he first won the Wimbledon title in 2003.

More: Federer Races Past Raonic and Into His 12th Wimbledon Semifinal

Shocking might not be the word, because everybody knows that inspired tennis is what Federer produces on grass, even at the elevated age of 35, but what to make of the players that were supposed to be his competition at Wimbledon in 2017?

When the first week concluded it was hard to find anyone that would go in for anything other than a semifinal that featured Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal a Wimbledon. Yes, the latter three all had their issues. Djokovic has not been himself for a full year but his Eastbourne title in the Wimbledon lead-up gave many hope that he might be ripe for a return to scintillating form at SW19; Murray was carrying a hip injury but he’s a gritty character that has fought through injuries before and surely he would be energized, playing at home, close to his family and on his beloved grass.

Speaking of grass, it’s never been Nadal’s favorite surface, but after his Roland Garros title run all signs pointed to his first deep run at Wimbledon since his last final appearance in 2011.

A mere three days into Wimbledon’s second week—known as the business end of the draw—all three are gone and only Federer remains. Nadal was edged by Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller on Manic Monday after he fell behind by two sets and couldn’t come all the way back, try as he did. Nadal’s sudden departure was the first domino to fall in what has proven to be a rather quick implosion, as both Murray and Djokovic saw their quarterfinals sabotaged by injuries on Wednesday. Murray’s hip became more than just a topic for water cooler discussion during the fourth and fifth sets of his 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1 loss to American Sam Querrey. It became a piercing reality that left the Scotsman pondering what must come next before he takes the court again.

“I'll get the best advice I can, then stick with that,” Murray told reporters. “If it means, you know, taking a few weeks' rest, then so be it. If it means training and doing the right, you know, rehab and stuff, then I'll do that. I have no idea of exactly what that's going to be.”

When it comes to health, 12-time major champion Novak Djokovic is at a loss as well. The Serb pulled the plug down a set and a break to Tomas Berdych and later said that he has been suffering from the same elbow surgery off and on for 18 months.

Never mind that Djokovic owned a 25-2 record against Berdych heading into Wednesday, or that Murray owned an 8-1 record over Querrey. There’s no solace to be taken from the fact that each player reached the quarterfinal running on fumes. The fact of the matter is that an already trying year for Murray and Djokovic has taken another unexpectedly bad turn.

It’s a bona fide bummer that the Big 4 has been reduced to the Big One at Wimbledon. Suddenly a weekend of potential thrilling matchups for the ages in London has devolved into a trio of pretenders and the ultimate contender for all the marbles.


That contender of course is the majestic Federer, who zoomed past Canada’s Milos Raonic the way a double-decker bus might blast through a London puddle on a dreary day. Raonic, a hard-serving Canadian who upset a not-so-healthy Federer last year en route to his first Wimbledon final last season, was the puddle. He had no answers, only a target on his back the size of Hudson Bay.

Federer pummeled him from start to finish, stopping only briefly in the third-set tiebreaker when he fell behind 3-0 before winning six of the final seven points as the crowd chanted “Roger! Roger!” fully declaring their newfound allegiance to the seven-time Wimbledon champion with their local horse Murray out of the race.

With Murray gone, Federer’s the adopted son, embraced for his winning ways, adored for his regal form and hated only by those envious of his fame and fortune.

“I think he's just mentally on top of it,” Raonic said. “There's really no glimpses. You can see there's not much doubt in his mind. He's feeling it.”

Federer, who now owns the all-time men’s singles Wimbledon win record with 89, has been feeling it since 2003 when he first claimed this title. There have been speedbumps along the way, and he’s had his doubters, particularly after last season when he left after a bitter loss to Raonic and did not play again all season. But watching him dismantle a younger more powerful Raonic as the early evening sunlight swept across the sport’s most fabled surface, it was easy to see that he had not left the sport last season to retreat. He left so that he might come back to these hallowed halls with a renewed sense of purpose.

“I'm just very happy that I'm still doing so well,” Federer told press Wednesday evening. “Am I surprised? Maybe a little bit. But the plan was always to hopefully be strong also later on in my career.”

With the draw blown to pieces and the fervent support of the British now with him, the only surprise will be if Federer does not claim his record eighth Wimbledon title on Sunday.

“This year I'm just a normal tennis player again where I can focus on tactics,” he said, referring to the fact that his six-month hiatus has allowed him to put all health concerns behind him. “I think that's the difference.

“I'm playing very well. I'm rested. I'm fresh. I'm confident, too. Then great things do happen.”

 

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