Every time Roger Federer has stepped foot in Center Court for the past nine days, there is a continuing fear that it could be the last time Wimbledon’s beloved son will appear in action at the All England Club.
On Wednesday, Hubert Hurkacz, a man who had won just four games on the grass before this fortnight, could well have made those fears come true after producing an inspirational screen to give his child idol a 6-3 7- 6 (4) 6 -0 scoring in the quarterfinals.
Prior to Wednesday, the eight-time champion had played 404 sets at Wimbledon since making his debut in 1999 and had never lost 6-0 on the court.
If the 407th set he claimed at the All England Club proves to be his last, it will be a sad end to Wimbledon’s career as a man described by John McEnroe as a “tennis god” whose excellent shots have impressed and excited fans of over two decades.
“I do not know if we will see the great man here again,” said former champion Boris Becker, expressing the fears of many millions.
The frustrated Federer could not rule it out.
“I do not know. I really do not know “, admitted the 39-year-old Swiss, who had submitted an offer to become the biggest man in the Open Era to reach the last four at Wimbledon.
“I’m not used to such situations …, especially not here.”
It has been 18 months since Federer played his last five games in the same tournament, as two surgeries on his right knee kept him out of the sport for more than a year after his semifinal defeat at the 2020 Australian Open.
For him, the decisions he made on his 40th birthday in August – to go under the knife, or spend many hours in recovery or retire from last month’s French Open after winning the third round of the race – were all because he wanted to hold high the pineapple with the top Challenge Cup record for the ninth time.
The fact that the dream ended in a 0-6 nightmare must hurt and hurt badly.
“I’m terribly exhausted. I could go for a nap now. That’s how I feel, “said Federer, who lost his 21st Grand Slam title in the same arena two years ago after losing two points in the final against Novak Djokovic.
“You put everything on the line, and when it ‘s over, you could fall asleep because you’re so mentally exhausted. The last 18 months have been long and hard.”
When things go wrong the way they did on Wednesday, the big Swiss will leave Wimbledon with more questions than answers about his future.
Faced with a Polish opponent who had not previously won more than two Grand Slam victories, many did not believe that Federer’s quest for a 14th Wimbledon semi-final and 47th in all four major companies would come as rigid as he did.
When the Swiss survived with three break points to advance 3-0 and 4-1 in the second set, the fans stopped biting their nails and settled back into their seats with the confidence that it would only be a matter of time before Federer leveled. in a set – all with Hurkats.
But the Federer dazzling winners, who left his racket like liquid gold over the years, were soon equipped with the Pole, who was just two when the Swiss made his Wimbledon debut.
Instead, there was a steady stream of shanks backhands, neted volley and wayward forehands – not the kind of shots that had earned him 369 fight wins in the big ones.
When he stumbled and lost contact with the ball in what should have been an easy hit – the alarm bells started ringing louder and his “Let’s go Roger, let’s go” chants also rang fever.
However, all the cheers and attitudes in the world could not save Federer on Wednesday, as it seemed that the 39-year-old body finally told him that it was enough.
Federer forehand on the trams gave Hurkacz the biggest win of his career.
“Obviously there are still a lot of things in my game that maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago were very simple and very normal for me. Today they no longer happen naturally,” Federer said.
“I have a lot of ideas on the pitch, but sometimes I can’t do what I want to do.”