Raonic dashes Federer's hopes, moves into final

Milos Raonic defeated Roger Federer 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinal to reach his first ever Wimbledon final.

Raonic reacts during the five setter against Federer.   -  Getty Images

Poets and literary geniuses can be believed up to a point. But to think what they write applies to everything might reflect our own immaturity. And the end result is disappointment and emotional pain — things that Roger Federer’s tens of millions of fans had to endure in the men’s singles semifinals of the Wimbledon tennis championship on Friday.

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And the man who brought them on was the powerfully built Canadian, Milos Raonic, who kept his head when the chips were down to outlast the seven-time champion and third seed 6-3, 6-7(3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to become the first man from his country to make a Grand Slam final.

It may not have been unwise to say of Roger Federer what Ben Jonson said of the best known and most celebrated writer in the English language – William Shakespeare. And even as he gets older, with each new accomplishment, we can be even more assertive as we say. “He was not for an age but for all time.”

The fact that we have to dig deep into literature — and our own literary competence is not good enough — to accurately capsulate Federer’s achievement is, in itself anoints Federer with his now familiar title — the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT).

On Friday, as the Swiss master got off the blocks slowly but turned assertive to capture the second and third sets after losing the first, Robert Browning too came to mind. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be; the last of life (read career in this case) for which the first was made,” wrote Browning.

And all of us, whatever age we were when the great man won his first title here 13 years ago, can thank our stars with an odd mixture of rapture and gratitude that he is still able produce the gasp-eliciting tennis that slowly but surely contributed to his unmatched image has a champion.

The velvety carpet of the centre court here seems to endow Federer with wings, making him weightless as he has showed in his quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. Proving to us, yet again, that when you embrace timeless greatness, crisis and creativity are but two sides of the same coin. And he calls it right most of the time, although not on Friday.

And to stick with our theme of the day and stay with literature, we can even rope in the French genius Albert Camus who wrote: “The absurd joy par excellence is creation.”

But believe me, Federer is nowhere near his pomp. He is simply so good that only a few men can get past him even when he has slowed down and his strokes are a wee bit less powerful.

Even though Federer retains the intensity of his world-beating days, he still puts on show the aggression of his best days. All this is precisely why Raonic’s achievement is something monumental.

Raonic started wonderfully well, as he broke the Swiss maestro in the third game of the first set and then hit two wall-crashing forehand winners in the ninth game to capture the set.

Although the Canadian was punctuating his big serves with a liberal number of double faults, he stayed in the fight for the second set until the very end. John McEnroe is now Raonic’s consultant and a few months of talking to that loveable stranger has helped the Canadian improve his net game as well as his attitude to winning and losing.

As Federer built up a two-sets-to-one lead, you might have believed that the match was all but over.

But the Canadian quickly got his act together and broke Federer’s serve in the fourth game of the fifth set, one in which Federer fell flat on the ground chasing a Raonic pass.

To call that a turning point is to take credit away from Raonic. For, at that time he was the dominant player and had pushed Federer to the very brink on his second service game of the set.

But what a fall it was in the end as Raonic hit as superb forehand winner to go up 3-1. The rest was a formality — and the fact that the young Canadian make it look like one showed his class on the day.