July 7, 2021
Novak Djokovic made it look so easy as he moved relentlessly towards his place in history.
The great Roger Federer could also have earned a spot in the Wimbledon semi-finals. But he probably knew his chance had gone when everything went wrong in a crucial tie-break.
Federer received a standing ovation from the Centre Court crowd at the start of what could be his final service game at Wimbledon.
Even that applause couldn’t alter the course of the match and the likeable Polish hope, Hubert Hurkacz won 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0.
It all felt moving and strange in equal measure.
Roger had never lost a set 0-6 at Wimbledon and he hadn’t lost in straight sets here for nearly twenty years.
The writing could be on the wall for the most graceful and magical tennis star of them all.
Meanwhile the fortunes of Novak Djokovic could hardly contrast more sharply this evening.
The immaculate Serb had also benefited from an electric Centre Court atmosphere earlier in the afternoon.
He brushed aside his Hungarian opponent Marton Fucsovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 with hardly a care in the world.
It was a performance oozing all the confidence of a masterful champion who knows his destiny.
‘Going for history is a huge inspiration to me. Let’s keep it going,’ Novak said with an ominous smile.
Two more victories and Djokovic will join Federer and Rafael Nadal on twenty Grand Slams.
He has plenty left in the tank, too. Roger, on the other hand, probably won’t have another opportunity to add to his total now.
He might have levelled the set-count against Hubert Hurkacz. He was 3-0 up in the second and he had so many chances to gain the ascendancy in that pivotal breaker.
But every time Federer approached the net, he failed to put the ball away. Then he slipped when a vital volley invited him – and effectively it was all over.
The manner of Federer’s defeat was particularly painful because of that final set. But the big Pole could not have been expected to show any mercy.
We must wonder now whether we will ever see Federer in action at Wimbledon again. But he has not disappointed, even in what will probably turn out to have been his final year.
Let’s not forget that Federer’s achievement in reaching the quarter-finals is in itself extraordinary for a man pushing forty.
How lucky we have been to see him for so long this Wimbledon fortnight!
More than twenty years of sporting poetry from that Federer racquet can never be overshadowed by anything.
But the day belongs to Djokovic – as indeed the year seems to belong to Novak too.
His victory was almost casual against Fucsovics.
He said: ‘It was a solid performance. I started off extremely well. One break in the second and third sets was enough to secure victory.’
And it really was as clinical as it sounded.
Mind and body in perfect harmony. That’s Djokovic. And it’s awesome to watch.
As for Federer, he left Centre Court quickly with a wistful wave. We have loved and admired him for so long. Those memories will never fade.
But now it is time for the business end of Wimbledon and the action-packed hunt for silverware.
Will you be there to witness the brightest stars at the very top of their game?