In the first semifinal on Friday, talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov expectedly gave a scare to top-seeded Djokovic, after snatching the second set and posing some more danger in the fourth set Djokovic held on regardless. Alex Ramsay, writing for Wimbledon’s official IBM-managed website, did not make the description apt by his title; “Djokovic Silences The Young Pretender”. Far from it, the Bulgarian fought without any pretentions until the end. After the match Dimitrov drew sumptuous praise from his worthy opponent, who told a BBC Sports interviewer that he had just finished playing a future star. In the second match, the rejuvenated Roger Federer played a clinical game, allowing due margin for the booming serves sent down from the 6’5” tall Canadian, Milos Raonic. The 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 score-line does not tell the full story of the hard-fought victory earned by the 7-time Wimbledon champion.
On a day, when conditions were dry, neither Djokovic nor Dimitrov could use their feet to good effect. The match, which finally went to four sets, could easily have spilled to fifth but Djokovic managed to bounce back, after he trailed the Bulgarian 3-6 in the fourth set tie-break. For all his youthful exuberance, Grigor Dimitrov succumbed to the richer experience of his famous opponent. Dimitrov, who scored a straight sets victory over Andy Murray on Wednesday, was held off by the no.1 seed in the first set. Djokovic’s serve-and-volley game would have gladdened the heart of his coach Boris Becker, who watched intently from his box. Just when Djokovic held two break-points for the lead in the second set, Dimitrov served a scorching ace down the middle and after holding his serve, built further momentum in the set. A couple of games later, Dimitrov played a delectable drop shot that brought Djokovic running full speed to the net but to no avail. Dimitrov played with a forceful decisiveness to take the set 6-3. After two sets, both men showed athleticism as they sprinted around with top speed in their halves of the court. In a tightly played third set, Djokovic got lucky, when down a break point, his backhand shot hit the top of the net and rolled over to Dimitrov’s court. In the tie-break, Djokovic didn’t allow Dimitrov any foothold. The fourth set saw the Serb playing with authority and broke the Bulgarian early. But Dimitrov was not finished yet. In another spell of brilliant tennis, he successfully chased Djokovic’s drop shot and not only broke the top seed but raced ahead to a 5-4 lead. Djokovic composed himself, wiped off the lead and forced a tie-break. The Bulgarian produced some stunning passing shots and held three set points at 6-3 but Djokovic was no easy meat, as he closed the gap and an untimely double fault from Dimitrov gave Djokovic his first match point. But the no.1 seed failed to take advantage as another passing shot from Dimitrov brought the score to 7-7. On his second match point, however, Djokovic produced a thundering forehand and closed the match 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6.
Roger Federer had already acknowledged that his semifinal opponent was gifted with a great service that could cause problems to him. The 7-time winner, therefore, began cautiously, intent on holding his service games against his Canadian opponent Milos Raonic. Fedrerer’s game plan included reducing his unforced errors and waiting patiently for just one break of serve against Raonic in every set. Maintaining his composure, the 32-year old Swiss, capitalized on a Raonic double fault, followed by an unforced error and stayed calm in taking the first set 6-4. As expected, Raonic’s booming serves kept him on even keel in the second set, until the score reached 4-4. Federer put pressure with a great backhand and Raonic was down 0-30 on his serve. Then the Canadian faltered again with a careless smash. Then Federer produced another beautiful backhand down the line to break Raonic and held his serve to close the set yet again at 6-4. Nearly the same thing happened in the third set at 4-4. Raonic began with a double a fault and Federer pressed him to elicit another error to hold three break points. He closed the set 6-4 again on his second break point. Federer then served out for the match and entered the final to a huge cheer from 15000 spectators at center court. Federer had to contend with 17 aces from the Canadian as against 6 of his own but he had a high percentage of points won on his first serve in a match lasting an hour and 41 minutes.
Federer and Djokovic, who contest the final on Sunday, have champion coaches to back up their campaigns. Stefan Edberg is Federer’s advisor while Djokovic is drawing upon the experience of another celebrity and Wimbledon winner Boris Becker. Djokovic, who narrowly lost to Nadal in the French Open last month, will not leave any trick unused against Federer. On his part, Federer would like to tell his detractors that despite his poor form in 2013, he is still a major force in men’s tennis circuit.