Wimbledon 2012: Federer crushes Youzhny to set up Djokovic semi
Roger Federer breezes past Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon to set up a semi-final showdown with world No1 Novak Djokovic
The task for Mikhail Youzhny was arguably the most daunting of the men’s quarter-finals. In the dozen years that he and Roger Federer had spent on the pro tour, they had met 13 times, and 13 times the Russian man had lost.
Five of those matches had been played on grass, too, the most recent in Halle last month. In the four times they had played in Halle, Youzhny had taken just one set.
However, perhaps he could take some consolation from their only Wimbledon meeting this time last year when they met in the fourth round, for there, Youzhny took the first set in a tie-break—the only set he had won since the one he took in Halle back in 2003.
His experience and his record on grass had made him one of the biggest beneficiaries of the unique seeding system at Wimbledon. Ranked 33 in the world, he was seeded 26, and he did have some good fortune, facing only one seed on his way to his first Wimbledon quarter-final: He beat No8 Janko Tipsarevic in four.
Looking at the big picture, though, Federer was the hot favourite to reach the semis—except…
Against his last two opponents, one seeded even lower than Youzhny and one unseeded, Federer had lost sets. Indeed against Julien Benneteau, he was two sets down before pulling out a gutsy win.
More important, though, in his last, he suffered a back injury in the first set that inhibited his movement for much of the match. The question, therefore, was whether that problem was now behind him, because Youzhny would not let him off the hook as easily as Xavier Malisse had done.
The answer came pretty swiftly. Federer was serving normally, bending to receive serve normally and, judging by the way he rushed in for a flying smash winner to hold a clean game in the fifth, he was feeling just fine.
Things had already been nicely tested in the second game, where Youzhny fended off five deuces and five break points before firing a backhand long to give Federer the first break of the match. But down 1-4 and 30-40, the Russian was saved by a sudden shower as the players rushed off and the covers came on.
The respite did not last long. They were soon back, Federer took the break point to lead 5-1, and the set was done with a swift hold in 28 minutes: 6-1.
There was good news for the No1 seed from the Court 1, as well. An early break against Novak Djokovic by Florian Mayer had been cancelled out but it would be some time before the Serb’s first set was in the bag.
By the time Djokovic was 6-4 up, Youzhny had faced three break points in the first game of the second set. He roared his way, literally, back to 30-40 but fell victim, as if Federer needed any help, to a cruel net cord to seal the break.
Federer, already flowing effortlessly through his own serves, went up 0-40 against the Russian’s serve in the seventh, as well, and, just as before, broke on the third to lead 5-2. A love hold, and Federer was two sets up for the loss of only three games in 56 minutes.
Just as Djokovic held a break point in the third game of his second set, Youzhny tried again to get on the scoreboard first in his third set, but once again he failed. Despite going 40-15 up, he faced a Federer on a roll.
It was elegant tennis, both playing backhands with a one-armed sweep, both able to pick off classic grass-court backhand volley winners, but the Russian’s problem was that Federer could do much more and with greater pace and better direction.
All Youzhny could do was raise his arms at Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in the front row of the Royal Box and grin. They understood the problem he faced.
Perhaps they gave him a clue: He made his first love hold in the next game and went on to work two break points—his only chances in the match—but they were snuffed out with four straight Federer points. As if to rub salt into the wound, Federer went into overdrive in the next. One backhand winner down the line then a killer of a swing volley earned two break points, and although Youzhny pulled back to deuce, he doubled faulted on a fourth break point.
As Federer raced to his match’s 6-2 conclusion, he may have noticed that Djokovic had raced to a 6-1 second set. Whether he gave his next opponent—who went on to take a 6-4 third set—more thought at that moment is doubtful. First, he would celebrate his 25 winners to 13 errors and his 24 successful net approaches from 34—and they only played 148 points in the match.
Federer is now one step further than he reached in the last two years and one step closer to that Holy Grail, a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title. But now he faces the ultimate test in his 27th meeting with Djokovic—and in all those meetings, they have never met on grass: “It is interesting that this is our first grass court match.
“I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t put too much thought into it, to be quite honest yet. I’m just happy that I’m around further than I’ve been the last couple years.
“It gives me confidence going into a big match against Novak. I’ll give a thought now today, tomorrow, and the next day how to play him on grass.”
It is a mouth-watering prospect, for the No1 ranking is also on the line. Should Federer win the title, he will supplant Djokovic at the top, and that way another record will fall: the most weeks any tennis player has held the No1 ranking.