Federer breaks Ancic in flawless display

Roger Federer yesterday accelerated with ominous momentum into his ninth successive Grand Slam semi-final, beating the towering Croat Mario Ancic in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. The top seed and three-times Wimbledon champion is an engagingly modest fellow, but even he described it as "an incredible performance."

Whether he is aware that he now stands just one behind Ivan Lendl, who holds the Open-era record of 10 consecutive semi-finals, between 1985 and 1988, Federer doubtless has half an eye on Bjorn Borg's 30-year-old record of winning here without dropping a set. Grand Slam semi-finals he takes for granted these days, but even for him, 21 sets for and none against would be something special.

It is certainly getting harder to see who might force him to four or five sets, let alone beat him. So far he has dropped two service games in these championships, one of them in yesterday's third set when he was 3-0 up. Ancic, who battled admirably to the last, is the last man to take Federer's scalp here, in the first round in 2002. But the 22-year-old seventh seed never came close to repeating his achievement of four years ago, despite having been described by John McEnroe as the man left in the draw with the game most likely to thwart the champion.

At 2-2 in the first set it at least seemed as if an interesting contest might ensue, but following the first of two lengthy rain delays, Federer came out with his extraordinary repertoire in even better shape than it had been when he and Ancic sought refuge in the locker-room. He promptly broke the formidable Ancic serve, and the die was cast for the remainder of the match.

In an interview with the BBC's Sue Barker on Tuesday, Federer had acknowledged that Ancic might be a tricky opponent. "You have to always expect the unexpected," he said. How true. During the break between the fifth and sixth games of the opening set a couple of clowns representing the Fathers For Justice campaign leapt out of the crowd and tried to play a rally on the hallowed Centre Court turf.

With a male streaker having paraded his limited assets during Maria Sharapova's match against Elena Dementieva the previous day, Wimbledon might have to review its security measures. There are nutters out there, as well as clowns.

On the other hand, the lark at least gave the crowd something to smile about on a day when awe rather than amusement was the dominant emotion. At times Federer's tennis looked almost inhuman, and he nearly ended one rally in the third set by hitting a winner off the Ancic smash. It sailed just a few inches over the baseline. But for the most part, it might have been one of the Fathers For Justice campaigners still out there, for all that Ancic could do to stem the tide.

At 3-4 in the third set he held a point to break Federer's serve for the second time, but the champion saved it with an astounding piece of athleticism, whipping a cross-court winner from a powerful forehand that lesser players might have been happy just to bat across the net.

Sitting in the crowd watching all this unfold was the American golfer Freddie Couples, whose unhurried, unflappable demeanour on the golf course is matched by Federer's on the tennis court. Couples might be trying like hell, but his swing looks languidly effortless. The same is true of the way Federer swings a racket, the difference being that he is also as dominant as Tiger Woods at his best.

On days like yesterday it seems crazy even to add the word "arguably" to the contention that he is the best male tennis player of all time. There are simply no chinks in his armour. When he double-faulted at 4-3 in the first set, to give Ancic a glimmer of hope, it was only his fourth double-fault of the fortnight.

Which brings us to the Wimbledon statistics sheet thoughtfully provided by IBM. Except for double faults, and for that matter aces, Federer led the stats in practically every category before yesterday's quarter-final. He had won a remarkable 70 per cent of his second serves, which was way ahead of all the other quarter-finalists except, perhaps significantly, Rafael Nadal.

On paper, the Spaniard, whose match was due to begin in the Court One gloaming after the match between Radek Stepanek and Jonas Bjorkman, has played almost as well here as the Swiss, struggling only in his second-round match against Robert Kendrick.

One hates to contradict the great McEnroe, but maybe it was always the second seed who posed the greatest threat to Federer here, even though Wimbledon is played not on paper, but on Nadal's least-favoured surface, grass. Whoever Federer plays in the final - and surely Lake Geneva is more likely to dry up than he is not to make it that far - he offered his own verdict on his chances of winning his fourth title on Sunday. "If I keep up this sort of performance I don't see myself losing," he said. Ancic echoed that.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits