Roger Federer Loses at Wimbledon, Maybe for the Last Time

WIMBLEDON, England — On the grass court where he won a record eight men’s singles titles, Roger Federer was defeated, 6-3, 7-6 (4) 6-0, ...


WIMBLEDON, England — On the grass court where he won a record eight men’s singles titles, Roger Federer was defeated, 6-3, 7-6 (4) 6-0, by Hubert Hurkacz on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.

Shanking forehands and misjudging volleys, Federer, 39 and seeded sixth, was far from his finest on Centre Court, but Hurkacz, the 14th seed, still had to summon the power and gumption to knock him out.

Hurkacz, a good-natured Pole who is based in Florida, had never been past the third round at Wimbledon or any Grand Slam tournament before his visit this year to the All England Club. In 2019, he lost to Federer in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in their only previous singles match.

But this quarterfinal match, which lasted just 1 hour 49 minutes, will be the one that will remain most embedded in both men’s memories and quite a few more, if it turns out to be Federer’s final match here.

“I’m actually very happy I made it as far as I did here and I actually was able to play Wimbledon at the level that I did after everything I went through,” Federer said in his post-match news conference. “Of course I would like to play it again, but at my age you’re just never sure what’s around the corner.”

He said he would take some time to decide whether he will compete at the Tokyo Olympics. “I said everything waits till Wimbledon is done,” Federer said. “Wimbledon is done now. I haven’t taken a decision yet where we go from here.”

He first played at Wimbledon in 1998, winning the boys’ singles and doubles titles, and became a star in 2001 by upsetting the seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round in his first match on Centre Court. In 2003, he won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, defeating Mark Philippoussis in the final.

Though Federer is Swiss, Wimbledon has long felt like home turf with the largely British crowd warming to his elegant game and understated on-court presence. He has experienced great success here but also great disappointment. In the 2008 final, he lost to his younger rival Rafael Nadal in one of the best matches ever played. In the 2019 final, he was unable to convert two match points on his way to defeat against his other signature rival, Novak Djokovic.

The match, one of the most deflating of his long career, could have been his last at Wimbledon. He lost the tournament at age 37. Instead, he chose to play on despite two knee surgeries and the long hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic.

Returning to Wimbledon was his biggest motivation as he pushed himself through rehabilitation, and though he was the oldest man in the Open era to reach the quarterfinals, he could not go further.

“I felt very disappointed in the moment itself.” Federer said. “I still am. At the same time there’s always a weight that falls off your shoulders when a tournament is over, when a huge goal is made or missed. It doesn’t matter actually. You feel the weight is gone and you’re exhausted.”

Credit…Julian Finney/Getty Images

Though Federer has long made tennis look easy, that was not the case on Wednesday. Though he has often glided across the grass as if it were a dance floor, it seemed as slippery for him as it has for many others these last 10 days.

After losing the first set, he failed to maintain an early lead in the second set, mis-hitting his forehand and failing to return Hurkacz’s big first serve consistently. He finished with more than 30 unforced errors and won only 35 percent of his second-serve points.

Hurkacz, 24, like Federer, is an all-court player with fine volleys and a taste for the trick shot: His tweener is one of the flashiest on tour, and he won his first significant title in April at the Miami Open against an understrength field. But it was still quite a surprise to see him finish off Federer in straight sets at the tournament Federer holds dearest.

Could Hurkacz have imagined defeating him in this manner?

“Probably not,” Hurkacz said in his on-court interview as he smiled with his left hand on his hip. “Playing here in front of you guys, and I mean the special things that he has done here throughout his whole career, so it’s a dream come true, and I really thank you guys for coming here and cheering.”

After losing the second-set tiebreaker, the third set was over in what felt like a flash — just 29 minutes — after all the time Federer has spent on Centre Court.

As he faded, the faithful on Centre Court who have cheered him for so long grew more urgent in their support.

“Let’s go, Roger, let’s go!” came the chant when he trailed, 0-3, in the third.

“You got this!” one fan shouted as Federer went down another break point.

The more desperate began cheering Hurkacz’s errors, including one loud “Allez!” from a fan in French after the Pole missed a groundstroke. There were even a few claps for one of Hurkacz’s missed first serves, a rarity at Wimbledon.

But even extraordinary measures were of little help. Federer’s increasingly frequent errors elicited gasps that turned to sighs as the crowd grew more resigned to the outcome.

“Are you feeling OK?” one fan shouted as Federer chose not to challenge a close call down, 0-4.

There was a loud ovation as Federer stepped to the line to serve down, 0-5, with many fans standing.

When it was over, Federer packed his bags without delay and waved to the crowd with a brief pirouette before he walked off the grass and returned to the clubhouse, head slightly bowed and a bag slung over each shoulder.

“One more year! One more year!” pleaded one fan as he disappeared from view.

That will be up to Federer, who will turn 40 in August.

Ben Rothenberg contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Roger Federer Loses at Wimbledon, Maybe for the Last Time
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