8-time Wimbledon champ Federer loses quarterfinal to Hurkacz

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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays a return to Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics during the men’s singles quarterfinals match on day nine of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Wednesday, July 7, 2021.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Roger Federer has been feted by plenty of ovations at Centre Court. None quite like this one, though. This was not a celebration. It felt more like a “Thank you” or — just in case — a “Goodbye.”

The eight-time Wimbledon champion lost 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0 to 14th-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in the quarterfinals at the All England Club on Wednesday, a surprisingly lopsided finish to Federer’s 22nd appearance in the tournament.

As Federer stepped the baseline to serve in the last game, he needed to wait while fans in the full-to-capacity stands applauded and cheered. Soon enough, it was over, only the third 6-0 set lost by Federer in 429 career Grand Slam matches; both of the others came at the French Open — in his 1999 Slam debut against Pat Rafter and in the 2008 final against Rafael Nadal.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s super special for me. I mean, playing on this special court against Roger — it’s always, when you’re a kid, it’s like a dream come true to play him.,” said Hurkacz, a 24-year-old from Poland who in the lead-up to the match called Federer his idol.

Asked if he could have imagined this result, Hurkacz replied: “Probably not.”

And yet, this was not the Federer the world is used to watching. He underwent two operations on his right knee in 2020 and was sidelined for more than 12 months in all. He arrived at Wimbledon having played a total of eight matches this season.

Factor in age — Federer turns 40 on Aug. 8, so this was his last major in his 30s — and maybe it was just too much to ask that he make his way to the closing weekend, even if this is a tournament he’s won more than any other man, and even if it’s contested on a surface, grass, on which he’s best.

He simply never was able to summon the serving and shot-making that have carried him to 20 Grand Slam titles overall, tied with Nadal for the men’s record.

On the other half of the draw, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic will meet No. 10 Denis Shapovalov in the semifinals.

For about 20 minutes Wednesday, Djokovic was not quite his indomitable, infallible self.

After racing to a 5-0 lead at the outset, he dropped three consecutive games to his unheralded quarterfinal opponent, 48th-ranked Marton Fucsovics. Wasted five set points in the process, too.

Soon enough, Djokovic righted himself, as he usually does, and beat Fucsovics 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on a windy, overcast afternoon at Centre Court to reach his 10th semifinal at the All England Club and 41st at a major tournament.

That allowed the 34-year-old from Serbia to continue his pursuit of a sixth championship at Wimbledon — and what would be a third in a row — along with a 20th Grand Slam title overall.

And there’s this, too: Djokovic improved to 19-0 in matches at majors this season as he pursues the first calendar-year Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969. Djokovic seized trophies on the Australian Open’s hard courts in February, on the French Open’s red clay in June and now seeks to add one on Wimbledon’s grass.

“I’m not chasing anybody,” Djokovic said. “I’m making my own path and my own journey, my own history.”

Shapovalov edged No. 25 Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 over nearly 3 1/2 hours at No. 1 Court.

“Obviously, he’s the best player in the world,” Shapovalov said about Djokovic, “but I think anything is possible. And when you look at the scoreboard first thing on Friday … it’s going to be 0-0. So that’s it. Nothing else matters.”

Hurkacz’s opponent Friday will be No. 7 Matteo Berrettini of Italy or No. 16 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

Hurkacz never had made it beyond the third round at any major; that’s when he lost to Djokovic at Wimbledon two years ago.

Still, Hurkacz looked quite comfortable on this unfamiliar stage. He played sublimely, with three times as many winners, 36, as unforced errors, 12.

In the opening set, he didn’t face so much as a single break point and was guilty of just four unforced errors to Federer’s 10.

It appeared Federer finally was beginning to make some headway early in the second set, earning a trio of break points and nosing ahead 2-0 on a double-fault. After his second serve found the net, Hurkacz pointed an index finger at his temple, then shook his head.

Federer then weathered three break points in the next game to lead 3-0.

But Hurkacz conceded nothing. Undaunted by the setting, the stakes, the foe or the almost-uniformly-for-Federer fans, Hurkacz claimed four of the next fives game to pull even at 4-all, breaking along the way with a stinging forehand return of a 101 mph serve that rushed Federer and drew a backhand into the net.

In the tiebreaker — which was preceded by loud chants of “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!” and rhythmic clapping — it was more of the same: Hurkacz hitting his spots and Federer stumbling.

On one foray to the net, Federer lost his footing and, in the process of catching his balance, missed what could have been a simple volley.

The third set went by in a blink, and when it ended with Federer missing a forehand well wide, he quickly packed his bags and hustled off toward the locker room with a wave and a thumbs-up.

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