Roger Federer was on the decline — or so the thinking went.
He was past 30. Had back problems. Tried experimenting with a larger racket. Was a family man, a father to two sets of twins now. Slid down the rankings. Reached zero Grand Slam finals over the past two years. Started losing before the quarterfinals at majors, including in 2013’s second round at the All England Club, of all places, to a guy ranked 116th.
Look at him now. Federer moved one victory away from a record eighth Wimbledon championship and 18th Grand Slam title overall by reaching Sunday’s final, where he will face Novak Djokovic.
Federer was asked how much it would mean to add to his trophy collection.
“A lot,” said Federer, who turns 33 next month and would be the oldest Wimbledon winner in at least a half-century. “I know I don’t have 10 left, so I’ll try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Could he have imagined 12 months ago, after his startlingly early exit, being back in this year’s final?
“I wasn’t sure,” Federer replied. “I hoped.”
After so much buzz about the rise of a new generation to challenge the supremacy of tennis’ “Big 4,” — a quartet, including Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, that will have won 36 of the past 38 Slams — Federer and Djokovic turned aside up-and-comers in Friday’s semifinals.
Djokovic, the 2011 champion, went first on Centre Court, overcoming dips in his play to beat 11th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7) and reach his third final at Wimbledon and 12th in the past 16 majors.
Federer, tied with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with seven Wimbledon titles, followed with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 11th-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada. Federer broke Raonic once in each set and took 61 of 80 points on his own serve.