Wimbledon: Federer beats Murray to set up final rematch with Djokovic

Two semi-finals decided in straight sets as top two seeds to clash on Sunday

For Andy Murray, the struggle is everything, from the training blocks to the grand stages of tennis in New York, Melbourne, Paris and Wimbledon.

Rarely is it easy, and so it was again in the semi-final of the 129th All England Championships, as Roger Federer, for whom exertion is anathema, resisted the Scot's unyielding efforts for two hours and seven minutes to reserve a place in Sunday's final against Novak Djokovic for the second year in a row.

The 33-year-old Swiss, who has won seven of his 17 Majors here, was ahead throughout the match after Murray chose to receive, and won 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 in the toughest test of his enduring skill in the six matches of the tournament to this point.

His serve hit a pitch of excellence that delivered him 20 aces – to go with 60 struck previously – and 58 of 69 points on first serve, numbers that Murray could neither match nor, ultimately, overcome, and he did not play badly at all. Crucially, Federer was hitting his second serve at an average 100 miles an hour for nearly the whole match.


“It’s been tough,” Federer said courtside. “Andy’s been playing very well and there were so many expectations on this match. I’m unbelievably happy.

“People expected it to go maybe four or five, me as well. I think I won it on my serve. I didn’t face a break point today against one of the best returners in the game. I mixed it up, kept pushing forward.”

Murray said later: “He served fantastic, apart from the first game when I had a chance. I didn’t really have any opportunities after that. I got broken at the end of each set. I didn’t really have a bad match. I was doing fine up to the end of the third set. He made it very difficult for me, serving close to the lines. That’s definitely the best he’s served against me.”

As for a rematch with Djokovic – who early expended minimum energy in accounting for Richard Gasquet 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes – Federer said: "Novak has been the best player for a few years now. Last year, I thought I'd get him. But this is a different occasion. I really hope I can get this one on Sunday."

But what a magnificent defeat this was for Murray. He probably would not concede the point, but choosing to receive – the equivalent of sending the opposition in to bat on a flat track – and following Federer’s serve throughout put him under enough extra pressure to make a difference, and his only hope was to beat him consistently off the ground.

For long passages he did so, never more dramatically than when saving five set points in the 10th game of the second frame, which last 17 minutes and contained exchanges of the highest quality.

It was reminiscent of the second game of the fourth set in the 2015 Australian Open final, when Murray survived a 20-minute test of his resolve, only for Federer to hold to love in the next game and go on to take the match. He held to love here and sealed the second set with a final break.

“I was screaming inside,” Federer said later. “I thought I didn’t play badly and Andy was really able to elevate his game. It was so close, but I was able to make the difference straight afterwards, keep calm, hold to love. It was probably the key moment of the match.”

The third set got away from Murray much more quickly and there could be no denying an opponent who has rediscovered his very best tennis at just the right moment. Murray put a final forehand wide and the suffering was done for another day.

Earlier, Djokovic, the defending champion, soaked up the best that No 21 seed Gasquet had to give in the opening set and then eased through the next two to reach his 17th Grand Slam final.

It was not flawless – there were too many uncharacteristic baseline errors – and he looked more impatient than usual and lost his footing on many occasions. But once he had taken the first set on a tie-break, 7-2, the result was never in doubt.

A minor left shoulder problem, which required a visit from the trainer twice during the second set, could have given Gasquet hope, but Djokovic passed superbly, dominated on serve and generally bossed the match to move within one win of a third Wimbledon title.

“It was a very good performance considering the occasion,” Djokovic said. “Richard had a great tournament, deserved to be in the semis and things could have gone his way in the first set. That was the turning point, for me. I’m just glad to be in another final. There will be a lot at stake but I’m going to be ready for it.”

(Guardian service)