By HOWARD FENDRICH – Japan Today
It was Wimbledon’s last Manic Monday — as of next year, no longer will all 16 fourth-round singles matches be scheduled on one day, a tradition vanishing along with that of a Middle Sunday without any play — and yet, amid all the chaos of simultaneous matches, one could be forgiven for imagining Roger Federer held the stage to himself.
He’s an eight-time champion at the All England Club, after all, who is coming off a pair of knee operations last season and participating in a Grand Slam tournament for the last time before turning 40, so who knows how many of these he has left?
Maybe that’s why nearly every point Federer claimed while beating Lorenzo Sonego 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 was treated by the Centre Court crowd as if it might be the last, riotously cheered and applauded for posterity. It all added up to a more vibrant atmosphere than at other contests on the packed schedule, whether involving victories for past title winners Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber — she ended 17-year-old American Coco Gauff’s run — or for one of the more than 10 players who earned a debut trip to the quarterfinals at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
“We’ll look back in 20 years, 50 years, from now and this is it. This was the last Middle Sunday, the last Manic Monday,” Federer said. “I’ve been happy I played in an era when there was a Middle Sunday. We have to go with the times. I understand.”
The whole “We really only care about one of these guys” vibe seemed to get to Sonego a bit. After at least four points that went his way, he waved his arms up and down, motioning to the crowd for more noise. They obliged, voices reverberating under the retractable roof pulled shut when rain arrived late in the first set, a delay of more than 20 minutes that, not incidentally, was followed by an immediate double-fault by the 26-year-old Italian on break point to fall behind 6-5.
That was the only opening Federer really needed as he moved into his record-extending 18th quarterfinal at Wimbledon. At 39, with his milestone birthday arriving Aug. 8, Federer is the oldest Wimbledon quarterfinalist in the Open era, which began in 1968.
“Well, I mean, I guess to some extent it’s nice to see that the work I put in paid off, that I’m able to play at this level,” said Federer, who only had played eight matches this year before last week.
Djokovic made it to his 12th quarterfinal at the All England Club while continuing his pursuit of a calendar-year Grand Slam, never troubled a bit while defeating No. 17 Cristian Garín 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
“It’s not a secret that I am trying to win as many Slams as possible,” said the top-seeded Djokovic, who needs to win three more matches this week to equal the men’s record of 20 major singles titles currently shared by Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Next up for him is Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, one of the first-time men’s quarterfinalists who advanced Monday, alongside Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, and Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who emerged from a 13-break fifth set to edge American Sebastian Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8.
“Yeah, 13 breaks, it’s tough to explain,” the 25th-seeded Khachanov said. “On the other side, it’s easy to explain. When you are returning, let’s say, better, you start to read the serves better, and then in play, in the rallies, both of us were more stressed, more tight.”
Korda’s take? “I don’t know what was happening out there,” said the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr and brother of the No. 1 women’s golfer at the moment, Nelly.
Khachanov meets the No. 10 seed Shapovalov on Wednesday, while No. 7 Berrettini faces No. 16 Auger-Aliassime.
Federer doesn’t know his next opponent. That’s because the last remaining men’s match, between No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz, was suspended because of rain in the fourth set at No. 2 Court, which doesn’t have a roof.
“It’s not fair, but it’s how it goes. These guys are young, they can recover. It’s not a problem for them,” Federer said with a knowing smile about the 20-somethings Medvedev and Hurkacz. “Unfortunately they’re very, very good, too.”
And then, joking some more, Federer added: “Hopefully it rains again tomorrow.”
The women’s quarterfinals are Tuesday: No. 1 Ash Barty vs. Alja Tomljanovic; No. 25 Kerber against No. 19 Karolina Muchova; No. 8 Karolina Pliskova vs. Viktorija Golubic; and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 21 Ons Jabeur.
Australia’s Barty and Tomljanovic, Belarus’ Sabalenka, Tunisia’s Jabeur, the Czech Republic’s Pliskova and Switzerland’s Golubic all reached the final eight at the All England Club for the first time.
Kerber, a three-time major champion who beat Serena Williams in the 2018 Wimbledon final, eventually emerged with the steadier play after her match against Gauff began with five service breaks in a row in blustery conditions.
One measure of how off both were at the start: Of the first 23 points, 14 ended with unforced errors.
After dumping a forehand into the net to get broken yet again and trail 3-2 after 15 minutes, Gauff whacked her calf with her racket before walking to the sideline for the changeover. Later, she admonished herself for another miss by smacking her shoe.
“Disappointed. I know I can do better,” said Gauff, who lost to eventual champion Simona Halep in Wimbledon’s fourth round two years ago. “But it’s just going to give me more motivation to go back and practice and come back stronger.”