On Wednesday evening, the cathedral of tennis, the grass of SW 19, saw one of the biggest upsets witnessed in the Wimbledon tennis championships. The crowd-favourite and the epitome of perfection in tennis, Roger Federer, fell victim to Kevin Anderson’s piercing serves and tenacious strokes that shook the very core of the Federer fans.
The match, a quarterfinal clash between Kevin Anderson and the categorically lauded tennis God, Roger Federer, commenced unremarkably, with Federer breaking early in the first set to clinch it at 6-2. The second set, too, was a somewhat similar affair: both players produced oblique angles and thunderous strokes that echoed in the Wimbledon court, and both the players went neck-to-neck. A tie-breaker was then needed to separate the two men.
Boasting an impeccable track record when it comes to tie-breakers, Federer held his serves comfortably, exerting a persistent pressure on the Anderson backhand. One of the very salient features in Federer’s game is the myriad of varying serves that he can pull out of his hat at the most exacting times. Trying this, as he might, Federer persevered, using his vicious backhand slice and then smothering the Anderson returns with his blistering forehands. At 5-5 in the tie-breaker, though, Federer seized the opportunity and secured a mini-break to duly serve out the second set.
At this point, the Federer fans seemed entirely sated; it is undeniable, after all, that Federer’s prowess on grass only burgeons further when he is two-sets-to-love up at Wimbledon, his favourite grand-slam of the year. But it was at this stage that Anderson buckled his otherwise morose and dismal spirits, producing bullet-like fires in the name of first-serves. Consequently, he was able to pressurise the single-handed Federer backhand, breaking Federer’s serve at 5-all in the third set. Maintaining his sinew, Anderson served out the third set with relative ease. The fourth set, too, was a similar affair, with nothing to separate the two contenders, and it was only at 4-all that Anderson struck a break to serve the set out very promptly.
The 5th set was nothing short of an interminable marathon. Both players remained toe-to-toe, with nothing separating the two, once again. As is the rule at Wimbledon, the 5th set, unless it occurs in a final, is to be played out in full with no provision of a tie-breaker to decide the winner on a somewhat whimsical premise. Instead, the 5th set tested the players’ relentless strokes, their undying spirits and, most of all, their ability to keep their nerve and sinew when all else seemed to falter. In a very unexpected turn of events, Federer shanked a couple of very easy put-aways, affording his opponent a golden opportunity to seize what proved to be the battle of the lions. The final score in the final set was 13 games to 11 in the South African’s favour, leaving Federer fans, including me, debilitated and bereft.
For many, including myself, Wimbledon ended there and then—not just because Federer lost, but also because Anderson’s win thwarted the possibility of the highly-coveted, romantic Federer-Nadal clash in the finals.