WIMBLEDON — There came a point Monday when you wondered whether Steve Johnson might have thought, “OK, now I get it.”
Johnson denied any intimidation going into his match against Roger Federer, whom the former two-time NCAA champion idolized growing up. But not until facing the lethally precise and efficient manner in which Federer can take apart an opponent did the 26-year-old appreciate how overwhelming the task of playing him can be.
“You realize when he hits these shots and finds his way out of tricky situations with such ease, that’s just what he does and why he’s arguably the best ever,” said Johnson, who fell to Federer 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 in 1 hour, 37 minutes.
With Novak Djokovic out of the tournament, Federer’s chances of becoming the first man to win an eighth Wimbledon title is increasing steadily, according to Ladbrokes. As of Monday, Federer’s odds were 7/2, second to only Andy Murray (10/11).
Federer, the highest-ranked player in the top section of a draw, has yet to drop a set in four matches. But Wednesday, he should face his strongest challenge yet in No. 9 Marin Cilic, who also expended little effort in getting past No. 5 Kei Nishikori, 6-1, 5-1 (ret.) in just 45 minutes.
Federer practiced with Cilic when he arrived at Wimbledon and said it was a good indication of what he can expect next.
“He was playing great,” Federer said. “[It was] 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, serving, boom, forehand, serving, boom, backhand. He’s very aggressive. He blew me off the court at the  US Open. I know what I’m getting into.
“He’s really tough to play. He’s really improved his serve in the last few years, especially since US Open. I’ve never seen him serve that consistently well. He can clearly do it here at Wimbledon, too.”