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There will be a first-time Wimbledon finalist this year, after men’s defending champion Roger Federer crashed out of the tournament in stunning fashion overnight.
The eight-time champion had led by two sets to love, and held a match point in the third set, before his South African opponent Kevin Anderson pulled off the miracle of all miracles to post a massive five-set victory, winning 13-11 in the final set.
The signs appeared ominous for last year’s US Open finalist when Federer broke in the opening game en route to taking the first set 6-2. Anderson then managed to take a 2-0 lead in the second set tiebreaker, before the Swiss came back to take it out 7-5 and therefore take a two-set lead.
Things remained on serve for the most part of the third set, with Federer reaching match point in the tenth game before Anderson managed to level proceedings at five-all.
The 32-year-old then broke in the next game, and then served out the set to take it 7-5 and become the first man since Milos Raonic in the 2016 semi-final to win a set against Federer at the All-England Club.
Further, it was also the first time Federer had lost his serve at the tournament since the eighth game of the first set in his 2017 semi-final win over Tomas Berdych.
Anderson then took the fourth set 6-4 to force a one-set shootout, which Federer had the advantage of serving in every odd game, thus putting the pressure on the South African in each even game.
The Swiss Maestro took a 6-5 lead and was at stages only points away from victory, before Anderson broke in the 23rd game to take the lead for the first time in the match.
The South African eventually served it out after Federer returned a serve wide to become the first man from his country to reach the semi-finals at the All England Club since Kevin Curran in 1983.
He will now go on to face John Isner for a place in his second Major final in as many years, after the American, best known for winning a marathon five-setter against Nicholas Mahut here in 2010 (with the final set going 70-68), defeated Milos Raonic in four sets to advance to his first Major semi-final.
For Federer, the defeat marks the third time at a Major, and second at Wimbledon, that he has lost a Grand Slam match after leading by two sets to love. The other two times both came in 2011, when he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon and the US Open respectively.
The defeat has also ended his hopes of a ninth Wimbledon crown and 21st Major title overall, and if he does return to the All England Club next year, he will be over a month short of his 38th birthday.
With the Swiss Maestro out of the tournament, Rafael Nadal can now tighten his grip on the world number one ranking before it all goes on the line at the US Open, where the Spaniard is the defending champion.
The second seed advanced to his first semi-final at Wimbledon since 2011 after outlasting Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro in five sets, marking a far cry from their previous meeting at Roland Garros, which the King of Clay won in straight sets en route to winning his eleventh title there.
It marked his 17th Grand Slam quarter-final victory from 18 attempts in Europe, and in an ominous sign, on each occasion, he has gone on to reach the final (he is 16 from 16 in Major semi-finals in the continent).
He will next face 12th seed Novak Djokovic, who outlasted Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the other quarter-final to advance to his first Major semi-final in nearly twelve years and first at Wimbledon since 2015.
It means the greatest rivalry in men’s tennis will take a back seat as another resumes, with this to be the first meeting between Djokovic and Nadal at a Major since the 2015 French Open, and first at Wimbledon since the 2011 final, which Djokovic won, becoming world number one in the process.
With 29 Major titles between them, including five at Wimbledon, it shapes as a blockbuster semi-final and you get the feeling that the winner of this match will assume favouritism for this year’s title.
Meanwhile, the women’s semi-finals will be played out tonight with Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams heavily favoured to face off when they face Jelena Ostapenko and Julia Goerges respectively.
Kerber and Ostapenko are the two highest seeds remaining in the women’s draw, after not one top ten seed managed to reach the quarter-finals.
The German has enjoyed a resurgent 2018 season after her struggles with expectation following her ascent to the world number one ranking in 2016 saw her drop out of the world’s top 20 last year.
Williams, meanwhile, is bidding to become the first mother to win a Major since Kim Clijsters won three of her four titles between the 2009 US Open and 2011 Australian Open.
All is now set for what should be a cracker of a finish to this year’s Wimbledon Championships.