LONDON — Like the patch of scorched earth around the baselines of Centre Court, Roger Federer‘s nearly 35-year-old body isn’t quite what it used to be.
Thirteen years ago, he won his first Grand Slam singles title here at the All England Club and then, nine years later, his last. In the four years since, Federer’s has become increasingly fragile, at times, even brittle, despite reaching the final here the past two years.
With a berth in Friday’s semifinals secure after a soaring two-sets-to-love comeback against Marin Cilic, it’s easy to forget that Federer is coming off his first missed major since 1999. He underwent knee surgery in February — a career first — and an uncooperative back forced him to sit out Roland Garros.
Raonic insisted he is now better equipped to win that Grand Slam that has been predicted for him by many.
“Definitely mentally, physically,” he said. “I think from every aspect, I’ve improved. I know how to sort of turn things around to get them on my terms. And then when things aren’t going well, I know what things to look for to change.
“I came here with a simple goal for this tournament. I think everybody on my team has that same objective. I think that’s why John was willing to join, for that same goal.”
That goal is to win the tournament. Federer, of course, is thinking the same thing.
It was fitting that the signature win over Cilic was Federer’s 307th in a Grand Slam singles match. That would be one more than Martina Navratilova’s total of 306, the previous all-time record in the annals of tennis.
“Today was epic,” Federer said, understandably sounding a bit giddy. “Probably going to look back at this as being a great, great match that I played in my career, on Centre Court here at Wimbledon. This is huge for me, my season, my career. I’m very, very happy.
“The record, I’m not even quite sure what we’re talking about, but I’m sure it’s great, I don’t know.”