Wimbledon: Andrew Castle on Roger Federer exit and Emma Raducanu


Roger Federer speaks to the press after his humbling Wimbledon exit

Roger Federer speaks to the press after his humbling Wimbledon exit (Picture: Getty)

After 22 years, 18 quarter-finals, 13 semi-finals and eight Wimbledon titles, we might have seen the last of Roger Federer.

For many, he is the most pleasing player of all to watch. His grace and style may never be equalled.

But his records may be beaten and perhaps that is why he made the trip to SW19 this year. At 39, it is nearly impossible to consistently perform at the highest level every day, be it down to physical recovery or powers of concentration. And it is a decline that cannot be resisted.

Federer was flat as a pancake against the admirable Hubert Hurkacz but it was not until the score was two sets to love and five love that I thought this might be the last Wimbledon chapter for Roger.

I can’t quite imagine a draw without him in it. He brings a glamour to any event and there is never an empty seat. If he does go, the game will miss him terribly.

With John McEnroe in the commentary box, we addressed the issue of Roger’s retirement and then suddenly it was over.

There was a sadness in the manner of the defeat. What ignominy, and bitter irony, to lose a set 6-0 at Wimbledon for the first time. Who knows, that might actually bring him back.

How he must regret that 2019 final and those two match points at 8-7, 40-15 in the deciding set. If he does stop now then I prefer to remember the great moments rather than the mediocre ones.

Be that the great final with Rafa Nadal in 2008 or the countless demolition jobs he inflicted upon all and sundry during a career that started at 17. I remember well the 15-year-old Federer I watched alongside two friends of mine, the Swedish coach Peter Lundgren and the late Australian player Peter Carter.

I had never seen a ball struck in a more aesthetically satisfying way than by Roger and never have I seen sport played with more brutality than by the maestro.

If I had to pick one moment above all others that defines him at Wimbledon it would be the forehand return pass he hit at match point up against Pete Sampras in 2001 to win 7-5 in the fifth set. He did not win that year but the baton had passed from one great to another — just as it has now, and will again when the sands of time catch up with Novak Djokovic.

THE men’s semi-finals take place today and Novak Djokovic has beaten Denis Shapovalov all six times they have played. The only set the top seed has lost so far is against the young man I hammered at golf last Sunday, Jack Draper. At 22, Shapovalov may be the most exciting prospect and wants it to happen now. For me, it is Djokovic in four sets. I’m not too keen on Italians winning in a sporting sense at the moment but I see Matteo Berrettini as favourite to beat Hubert Hurkacz. Berrettini won at Queen’s and can prevail in four sets. And, incidentally, England will win 3-0.

Emma has the potential to go a long way

How joyful it was to see Emma Raducanu emerge at Wimbledon.

Great Britain's Emma Raducanu impressed at the All England Club

Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu impressed at the All England Club (Picture: Getty)

The teenager has got everything sponsors and media want — she won matches, looked like she was having a blast and is a young woman from a multi-ethnic background.

Commercially these factors are going to change her life. Of course, none of it matters if you don’t then win another match but she’ll rack up plenty of victories and certainly has the technical skills and spirit to rise up the rankings quickly.

In professional tennis, there will be plenty of lows to go with the highs that she has experienced. She will learn how to cope with all aspects of life on tour.

The fuss over what John McEnroe said about her retirement was ridiculous. He is paid to have an opinion whether you agree with him or not. As it turns out, the occasion got to Emma. It has happened to countless people in many sports and it is extremely common. Her commendable statement and her interview with Sue Barker the next day explained this all clearly.

All the enormous attention takes its toll but now the cameras and media can clear off, and she can get on with a sense of normality once again, because there is a lot of work to be done to realise her potential.

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