Roger Federer demolished Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 on Friday to reach the Wimbledon final for the third year in a row, and will start the final as heavy favourite after a near-flawless performance.
After losing his last two grand slam semi-finals, Federer was under pressure not to fail at the penultimate stage again. But if he had any nerves, it didn’t show. He now strides the centre court like Becker and Sampras before him.
Hewitt was strangely subdued, especially during the second set when the weather threatened to cause play to be suspended. His traditional fist pumps and “C’mons” were absent - but so were opportunities for him to gain any headway on the Federer serve.
The match was a meeting of numbers one and two in the world, and the last two Wimbledon champions, but early on the crowd were slow to their seats. After the trading breaks early in the first set, Federer brought to bear a gameplan to neutralise Hewitt’s strengths. Before the match, Hewitt had claimed that he had identified weaknesses in Federer’s game. If so, it wasn’t apparent.
Federer’s tactics were to deny Hewitt pace on the return, deny him a target at the net, and then hit out as the rally progressed. Federer also gave a masterclass on turning defence into attack, frustrating Hewitt. In all, Federer played a game that was superior to Hewitt’s in every department.
The third set was Hewitt’s chance to get back into the match. Twice he held 0-30 on the Federer serve, but both times the chances were snuffed out. The tiebreak was a formality once Hewitt had double-faulted, and Federer won on his first match-point.
As the two players left the court, dust from the baseline blew up into Federer’s eyes. He seemed disorientated for a second. On this form, it looks like the only thing to impede his progress to a hat-trick of titles.