Federer, Venus keep beating time Father Time — and opponents
12:22 PM
Art Spander in Marin Cilic, Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Wimbledon, articles, tennis

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — It’s the old guy who’s taking the beating. Not Roger Federer. Not, on the ladies side, Venus Williams. It’s Father Time — Mother Time, if you will — getting smacked around like one of those official Slazenger balls they use at Wimbledon.

We keep hearing about the next generation, about the youth movement, about the future of tennis. So far this Wimbledon, future is very much of the past, of two players who, as Federer’s former coach Paul Annacone said about his onetime pupil, “wrestled Father Time to a stalemate.”

Federer did better than that against Marin Cilic, Thumped him but good. Came from two sets down in their quarter-final Wednesday, came from a situation where we were hoping Federer, a month from his 35th birthday, wouldn’t be embarrassed by Marin Cilic.

But it was Cilic who was not so much embarrassed as stunned. Federer saved three match points, beat Cilic 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, and now will face the Canadian Milos Raonic in one of Friday’s semis.

Venus, of course, advanced Tuesday. Her semi is Thursday against Angelique Kerber, and because Kerber — the Australian Open champion who beat Venus’ sister Serena in the final in January — is eight years younger than 36-year-old Venus, you’d think Kerber would win.

But we also thought Cilic, after winning the first two sets, would win. Especially because we thought Federer was too old. On the contrary, he’s too good. Maybe he doesn’t win an eighth Wimbledon. Maybe he doesn’t win an 18th Grand Slam. What he’s done is enough. Now and forever.

Federer saved seven breakpoints out of eight. Three of those were match points. Against Cilic, who won the U.S. Open in 2014, against a man with a huge serve and a big forehand. Against a player who had Federer off balance and out of sorts.

“Yeah, I mean I remember just being in trouble the whole time,” agreed Federer.

What others will remember is that Roger Federer somehow won a match even he was unsure he could win. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my God,’ all of a sudden there’s match point, all of a sudden there’s a breakpoint to save," he said. "It just was continuous, for an hour or two. After I lost the second set, anything you touch and do is crucial.

“You always know at that point, as well, he’s going to have his chances.”

Chances mean little unless they can be used to one’s advantage. “Huge disappointment for me losing this way,” said Cilic. How many times do you think that thought has appeared after matches against Federer? You have him beat. Then you don’t. All the magic without a rabbit or a hat.

“I managed to hit pretty good shots,” said Cilic, “but he ended up hitting great passes. Nothing that I could do there.”

In another semi, Raonic made Sam Querrey feel much the same. Querrey, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, was the first American male to get to the Wimbledon quarters since Mardy Fish in 2011. Querrey had upset top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the third round. Against Raonic, he was always trailing — other than the third set.

“I felt like I had some momentum there,” said Querrey. “Had a breakpoint the first game of the fourth set. If I can somehow get that point, it might change the match around, move it more to 50-50. He threw in a good kick serve as a first serve, which he hadn’t done. Then I was back on my heels a little bit, kind of always playing catch up.”

Then Raonic was headed for a 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 victory and a battle against Federer. “I’m happy to have another shot at him,” said Raonic. So, of course, was Cilic.

“He plays at a great level most of the time,” said Cilic of Federer. “His physique allows him to play an aggressive game. From the back court, players can’t hurt him.

“He’s not superhuman. But I don’t believe he’s slowing down. He possesses great speed. That’s something you’re born with.”

Whether he was born with a fighting spirit doesn’t matter. He has it. So does Venus Williams. They keep beating the old guy.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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