Wimbledon 2014: Federer & Raonic, Djokovic & Dimitrov, in their words
Wimbledon 2014: Roger Federer, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov gear up for the semi-finals at SW19
So it will be former champions Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic taking on two of the brightest rising stars of the tennis stage, 23-year-olds Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov for the chance to contest the most famous trophy in tennis.
The young duo are both looking to become the first men from their respective countries to reach a Grand Slam final, Raonic for Canada, Dimitrov for Bulgaria, and each would become the 100th different man to reach a Major final in the Open era.
Djokovic can regain the No1 ranking next week if he wins the title here to take his tally to seven Grand Slams.
Federer is aiming for his 40th match win of the year—behind only Rafael Nadal—for his ninth Wimbledon final, and ultimately a record eighth Wimbledon title.
How have they been feeling about their achievements so far and the match that lies ahead?
“Well, [Raonic] has got a big serve. Clearly that’s what is most visible when you see him play. That’s the hardest to deal with, I guess. It keeps him in the match. Doesn’t matter almost how he plays his return game, he’s been serving very well for this entire tournament.
“I’ve played him in some interesting places like Halle where we basically didn’t have any rallies whatsoever. I think it was 7-6 in the third… Here clearly on the grass with a serve like that it’s never going to be an easy match. That’s where you then go back to your own game and say, I’ll take care of my own serves and see what I can do on the return. That’s my mindset right now.”
“I’m really pleased to have come through. Last year was a major disappointment for me because I always see Wimbledon as one of my main goals of the season, side-by-side with rankings and some other highlights that I choose.
“Went back to the practice courts. Didn’t have any options left at that point. So I’m happy that one year later I’m back in the semis and with a chance to go further… happy I’m physically back where I can put myself in contention. It’s been a tougher last couple of years in terms of the Slams, but I feel like I’m back where I want to be. I feel like the game’s there.”
“We all know how Novak is competing and how he’s playing when he’s at his top level. I’m of course not expecting an easy match. But I’m out there to go through a match, to win it. I’m always going to focus on my game, whoever I’m going to play.
“Now it’s a semi-final match. I think we both going to really want that match. Of course, he has the experience and all that behind him. But in the same time, I’ve been playing great tennis. I believe in my skills at the moment. Whoever I’m facing in the next match, I know it’s going to be a battle. I just got to be really, really composed. Really composed. Do the regular things that I’m doing.”
“What can I say? We [younger players] want to win. I mean, I think the younger guys, we want to come on that stage. We strive for this. I think we’re thirsty for that. We want to prove ourselves. We also want to prove to the big guys that we’re around the corner, as I mentioned.
“But again, it’s just a different stage for us at that point. We need to establish ourselves I think even better, just what we’re doing right now. It’s a good effort, but you got to do that almost every single tournament you play on.”
“I think very highly of my serve. I think very highly of [Federer’s]. But I got to hope that my serve’s better than his in that situation. I got to hope that my serve can get me through a lot of difficult situations in whatever sort of rises up.
“Obviously, Roger has so many titles to his name, probably more than he has trophies. Magician, whatever you may call him, he’s capable of doing so many things. He’s quick. He can hurt you. He can do pretty much anything he wants with the ball. I’m a little bit more predictable, but I go about my job and I get the job done. It’s about trying to make him play on my terms rather than me playing on his. If I can do that, I can create the possibilities for myself.”
“I’m going to step out there and I’m not playing the seven-time Wimbledon champion. I’m not playing a 32-year-old man. I’m not playing father of two sets of twins, which is a very low possibility I bet to do! I’m not playing the guy that’s won whatever he’s won, which I could probably list quite vividly. I’m playing a guy that is standing in my way of what I want to achieve, and I’ve got to focus on everything that’s there, on the situation, how best to deal with it to give myself the best possibilities to achieve what I want.”
“It’s a thing I guess that you can’t really out run time in one way. New guys got to come up and they’ve got to step up. We’ve been doing better and better, especially throughout this year.
“[But] think the one result that stands out the most this year has to be, at least in my eyes and maybe other guys as well, is what Stan did at the beginning of the year. It doesn’t have to be from a young guy. I think it has to be from this group that’s considered contenders but sort of haven’t been able to break through. I think that one, beating Novak and Rafa in that same time, because you have to do it, I think that one was the biggest sigh of belief and relief for a lot of guys.”
“The fact that [Dimitrov] hasn’t lost a match in the grass court season this year says enough about his quality. Also winning against Andy. I’m sure many people look at him as a potential Grand Slam winner. Maybe here, maybe in the Grand Slams to follow.
“But he has won I think tournaments on each surface this year, so it says enough about his quality on different surfaces, his ability to adjust to different surfaces. His game has improved a lot. Working with Roger Rasheed as well, I’m sure that helps. He’s getting more experience now playing on the big stage, which definitely is useful when you play in the big tournaments like this.”
“I have to keep on moving. I have to try to improve myself not just on the court, but understand well the mental aspect, what is happening in those finals, why I am not able to win a Grand Slam title in last couple of years. Lost, what, four, five finals. So that’s something to work on.
“It’s one of the reasons why Boris is onboard. As somebody who is a multiple Grand Slam winner, a No1 of the world, getting to know him now better and better, spending more time with him, we actually have so many things in common. He can definitely identify himself through my own course of life and experience and career, things I’m thinking about and experiencing.”
And the last word, from Raonic, sums up what has got all four to this stage of the most prestigious tournament in the world: “Hard work always pays off. You got to be patient. You got to wait. You don’t know when, but hard work always pays off. Don’t ever look for that shortcut.”