Roger Federer says winning a record eighth Wimbledon crown tomorrow would be the biggest achievement of his glittering career.
Federer proved he can still “outrun time” and reclaim his grass-court empire by beating Milos Raonic yesterday to reach his ninth Wimbledon final.
The 32-year-old dismissed Raonic 6-4 6-4 6-4, dispelling the Canadian challenger’s prediction his All-England Club era could come to a close.
Federer will now face top seed Novak Djokovic in the final, where he can claim a record eighth title.
“That would mean a lot I must say, I’m unbelievably proud to keep walking the grounds and still be playing here,” he said.
“The first was so special in 2003, it was a dream come true.
“That I’ve been so successful for so many years has been an unbelievable thrill, and that I get another chance for success here, it’s just great.”
Federer’s stoic march through the field left him conceding he had almost produced the perfect route to the final.
“I’d say so,” he said when asked if he had found almost the perfect fortnight so far.
“I’ve played some great tennis, under pressure at times, because I didn’t play so well here last year and I expect a lot of myself here.
“The second week now I’ve really been able to play better, against Wawrinka and then now again against Raonic.
“I needed big concentration really. I’m extremely happy to be in another final.”
Relishing his final showdown with Djokovic, he said: “It’s always great; we always play good matches against each other.
“Novak is a great champion, he’s been around for a long time now and is used to these occasions.
“He knows how to get it done, so I hope it’s going to be a good match.”
But Djokovic claims there is more than just the Wimbledon trophy riding on tomorrow’s final.
The top seed will play for the title at the All England Club for the third time in four years after fighting off rising star Grigor Dimitrov in a 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (9/7) victory yesterday.
He has been remarkably consistent, reaching the final at 12 of the last 16 grand slams, but, having won four of the first five, he has gone on to lose five of the last six.
Since winning his fourth Australian Open title in 2013, Djokovic has lost in the final of Wimbledon to Andy Murray and the US and French Open to Rafael Nadal.
The last of those defeats came four weeks ago, Nadal once again denying Djokovic the title he craves, and the Serbian conceded the tough losses have taken a mental toll.
He said: “Of course, there is plenty of motivation from my side to win this grand slam final after losing the last three out of four. It would mean a lot mentally for me.
“Losing three out of four, it cannot be satisfying. I don’t want to sound like I’m not appreciating to play finals of grand slams. It’s already a huge result. We cannot take that for granted.
“But I know that I can win the title. I should have won a few matches that I lost in the finals of grand slams in the last couple of years.
“We will try to understand what I did wrong in the French Open final from amental perspective, and try to make it better in two days.
“Not winning a title, but being in several finals, this is something that I want to undo. Hopefully I can get the title in two days and start a new nice series of winning grand slam titles.”
Djokovic hired Boris Becker as his head coach ahead of the season largely to try to give him an extra edge in grand slam finals.
It did not work in Paris but Djokovic will hope for a different result on the court where Becker had his most famous successes. The Serbian will almost certainly need to play at a consistently higher level than he managed against Dimitrov, in a match that was compelling but rarely brilliant.
Dimitrov, fresh from ousting defending champion Murray on Wednesday, made a poor start and Djokovic was in complete control at a set and a break up and with another break point to lead 4-1.
But Dimitrov saved it, relaxed into the match and reeled off five games in arow to take the second set.
The 23-year-old Bulgarian looked the better player for much of the third set,too, but could not force a break and then crumbled in the tie-break.
When Dimitrov served three successive double faults to hand Djokovic a break inthe third game of the fourth set, the match looked all but over.
But again Djokovic allowed his opponent back in and had to save four set points, three of them in the tie-break, to avoid going into a fifth.
The 27-year-old frequently cut a frustrated figure, and he said: “I was a set and a break up and, again, made some unforced errors and gave my opponent a hope that he can win the match.
“That’s something that I definitely cannot allow myself in the final against Roger.
Dimitrov admitted he will be a little haunted by the one that got away.
“It’s never easy when you have set points,” he said.
“To go into that fifth set it’s obviously a goal, but today it was just not meant to happen. I had a good tournament.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved