Federer crushes Raonic to set up Djokovic showdown
Published 04/07/2014 | 18:44
Roger Federer proved he can still "outrun time" and reclaim his grass-court empire by beating Milos Raonic to reach his ninth Wimbledon final.
The 32-year-old dismissed Raonic 6-4 6-4 6-4 in Friday's semi-final, 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 Sunday's final, where he can claim a record eighth title.
Canada's eighth seed Raonic talked passionately about the challenge of dislodging tennis' top four in the build-up to his first grand slam semi-final.
The 23-year-old believes the new wave of men's talent is finally ready to loosen the decade-long stranglehold enjoyed by Federer, Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Djokovic.
Raonic claimed no one can "outrun time" and delay the inevitable passing of eras after his quarter-final victory over Nick Kyrgios - but even after 17 grand slam victories, Federer still has other ideas.
Djokovic quietened the clamour of Queen's Club champion Grigor Dimitrov to reach his third Wimbledon final, and when Federer took centre stage, he too took the chance to quell any changing of the guard.
The seven-time Wimbledon champion's meek title defence last year ended with a whimpering second-round defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
The Swiss grass master had failed to reach a grand slam quarter-final for the first time in nine years, leaving all and sundry predicting his demise.
The Basle native blamed his wretched 2013 on persistent back trouble though, and has since made good on his promise to launch a full-scale recovery.
Raonic accepted Federer's "magician" status in the build-up to this semi-final - the masterful sorcerer left his apprentice spellbound.
The Montenegro-born world number nine hailed Federer as the man who can "do anything he wants with the ball", and so it proved as the king of Centre Court stalked his principality with all the old style and poise.
Raonic's monster serve may take some containing, but as Federer strode into the final, he upheld his remarkable statistic of dropping just one solitary service game.
Compatriot Stan Wawrinka also remains the only man to pilfer a set from Federer in this tournament.
Few have troubled Raonic's blitzkrieg serve this fortnight, but Federer snaffled immediate plunder.
The wily Swiss swiftly converted a rapid break point, before holding safely to claim the match's first blood.
Raonic was forced to fend off two more break points in his next service game as Federer continued to impose his class.
Raonic's whip-crack forehand forced Federer to defend a break point next - but two quick aces sealed the game to preserve his advantage.
Federer then served out the set with little issue, to claim early control.
The second set stayed with serve to four games apiece, until Federer struck again.
A double fault then a loose attempted smash from Raonic offered Federer all the invitation required, and he duly fired a winner down the line to seize the initiative once more.
Raonic pulled Federer back to 30-30 next, only for the all the old match-winning experience to surface once more.
Sensing the threat, Federer swept into the net, buried a volley winner and brushed up the second set.
The third set followed the exact pattern of the second, with both men holding serve for four games apiece.
Again Raonic cracked as the pressure built, but this time Federer produced a sublime passing shot before Raonic fired into the net to hand his opponent the crucial break.
Federer then served out the match in true champion fashion, to book that showdown with the 2011 title winner Djokovic.
A triumphant Federer admitted a record eighth Wimbledon crown would top his career achievements to date.
"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."