Federer, Djokovic, Bautista Agut reach Wimbledon semifinals
WIMBLEDON, England — As Roger Federer made his way off Centre Court after moving into the Wimbledon semifinals for the 13th time, a spectator reminded him of yet another milestone.
A 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori on Wednesday gave Federer his 100th match win at the All England Club, the first man to reach that total at any Grand Slam tournament.
“The fan told me, ‘Congratulations, Roger, on your 100th,” Federer said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right.’”
Just another mark among many for the guy who is trying to add to his totals of eight Wimbledon championships and 20 Grand Slam trophies, both already unprecedented among men.
On Friday, Federer will face either his long-time rival, Rafael Nadal, or unseeded Sam Querrey of the United States, who were playing their quarterfinal on No. 1 Court.
If Nadal won, he and Federer would meet at Wimbledon for the first time since their memorable 2008 final, which Nadal won 9-7 in the fifth set as dusk descended.
The other semifinal will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 26 Roberto Bautista Agut.
Djokovic used a 10-game run to transform what was shaping up as an even, entertaining quarterfinal into a lopsided romp.
“I felt,” Djokovic would say later, “like I managed to dismantle his game.”
That’s a pretty accurate description of what happened. Down an early break, the defending champion grabbed control midway through the opening set and never let go, overwhelming the 21st-seeded David Goffin 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 to reach his ninth semifinal at the All England Club.
“He was everywhere,” Goffin said.
Bautista Agut, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, is supposed to be on the island of Ibiza right now, having a bachelor party with a half-dozen pals ahead of his November wedding. Instead, he will play on after beating No. 26 Guido Pella of Argentina 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“Well,” the 31-year-old Bautista Agut said, “it feels better to be here in London.”
Djokovic is seeking his fifth Wimbledon championship and 17th Grand Slam trophy overall.
The eighth-seeded Nishikori jumped out to an early edge by breaking Federer in the very first game, enough to give him that set.
“The beginning,” Federer said, “brutal.”
But Federer quickly began living his best life in the second, conjuring up whatever he wanted, exactly when he wanted it.
His approach shots were beyond reproach. His volleys vibrant. His returns were timed so well, and struck so violently, that one knocked the net-rushing Nishikori’s racket plum out of his hands.
And Federer’s serve? Sure, he faced break points, but he never allowed 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori to convert another.
Goffin started well enough against Djokovic on an afternoon that was humid and sunny, with the temperature in the mid-70s (mid-20s C).
Hoping to reach his first major semifinal, Goffin claimed three of the first four points that lasted at least 10 strokes. He won the pair’s most recent encounter, on clay in 2017, and this looked a bit like it was being contested on that slower surface, too.
Goffin was able to hang in there at the baseline and his on-the-run passing shots were dialed in. He nosed ahead after 33 minutes by breaking to go up 4-3, then jogged to the sideline with a raised fist.
Until then, Goffin was playing crisply and cleanly. He hadn’t faced so much as one break point against Djokovic, generally considered the top returner in the game.
“He was dictating the play from the baseline,” Djokovic said afterward. “Most of the rallies went his way.”
But that’s when everything changed.
Djokovic did to Goffin exactly what he does to so many men on so many surfaces and at so many tournaments: He takes their best shot, deals with it and then wears them down.
“I sincerely hope that my opponent feels like he’s got to work twice as (hard as) against any other opponent to win a point,” Djokovic said.
Serving at 30-love in the very next game, Goffin double-faulted. Then he flubbed a forehand. After limiting himself to three unforced errors through the match’s initial 49 points, the Belgian made two in a row. The next point was an odd one involving a late line call and a challenge by Goffin, who lost it and faced his first break point.
Djokovic couldn’t convert that one, but moments later, Goffin sent a forehand wide to set up a second. This time, Djokovic ended a 20-stroke exchange with a drop volley winner. And soon enough, he was on his way, sliding or doing the splits along the baseline to get to balls few others would, bending his body this way and that to repeatedly force Goffin to hit an extra shot.
It’s a dispiriting brand of tennis, and it was too much for Goffin. He would wind up going about 50 minutes until he managed to win another game.
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