There was a moment during what turned out to be the final set of Tommy Haas's match against his friend Roger Federer yesterday when, with both men at the net, the German threw up his hands in mock surrender.
Thanks to a rare Federer error – perhaps even distracted by his opponent – Haas actually won the point, but 20 minutes later a white flag was reluctantly hoisted with the Swiss maestro through to his seventh successive Wimbledon final by 7-6, 7-5, 6-3.
It will be Federer's 20th Grand Slam final, eclipsing Ivan Lendl's record and offering the opportunity to break the record he shares with Pete Sampras of 14 wins. He goes into it in outstanding form, having dropped just one set en route. The chance of Haas (right), the 24th seed, winning even one set – though he by no means played badly – was effectively confined to sneaking success on a tie-break, but once Federer snuffed out that possibility, the match, as the score illustrates, became progressively easier.
Haas, born in Hamburg but resident in the United States for many years, was No 2 in the world as long ago as May 2002, before requiring the first of three shoulder operations. At 31 he has been proving in the past fortnight that even at this level tennis is not merely a young man's game and by virtue of reaching his first Wimbledon semi-final, he will return to the top 20 next week.
Having recently led Federer by two sets in the French Open before submitting, winning the Halle grass-court tournament and then knocking out the fourth seed Novak Djokovic here, he approached the match with confidence, but had no answer this time to Federer's serve. For a time in the middle set, as he cranked it up to 127mph and then a peak of 130mph, it was as much as Haas could do to lay a racket on the little yellow object fizzing past him. The eventual statistics gave Federer 89 per cent success on his first serve and an extraordinary 81 per cent on his second (to Haas's 47 per cent).
Federer's assessment of the match was as graciously modest as ever: "It was a tough match because Tommy was playing very well. You play better if your opponent is playing good too. I couldn't get close to breaking him for almost two sets. That makes you a bit worried, but it's something that happens quite frequently on grass."
Indeed, there was scarcely a sniff of a break point either way in the opening 12 games. Federer had been quickly into a groove but Haas was also mixing up his service to good effect. Not until the tie-break did the German's serve cost him. A rare Federer error on serve allowed him a mini-break back, but it was his last point of the first set, anger with himself surfacing as the tie-break was lost 7-3.
In the second set, Federer won his first three service games to love and the next two to 15. Haas was always vulnerable as soon his own serve dropped off even a fraction. When that happened at 4-5, he got away with it, saving a set point. At 5-6, however, he faced one twice more and conceded the set in 44 minutes by sending a forehand long.
The third set was the shortest, at 32 minutes, and the most straightforward. Federer, more relaxed than anyone has the right to be on the verge of making sporting history, was able to laugh about the face-to-face incident at the net –"it was a funny moment" – although his opponent was less amused by being foot-faulted at 3-4. Clearly distracted, he went 15-40 down, retrieved the break points but faced another and lost it with a backhand approach into the net. Serving for the match, Federer won it in the grand manner, to love and by leaping into the air for a glorious slam-dunk.
As John McEnroe put it yesterday: "Most guys when they say they're just relaxed and enjoying it, you don't believe them. With this guy, you do."Reuse content