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Hubert Hurkacz Bounces and Bagels Roger Federer out of Wimbledon – is this the end for Federer?

By Alix Ramsay

He had done it to Pete Sampras in 2001. Now Hubert Hurkacz had done it to him in 2021: the 24-year-old Pole, who had idolised Roger Federer while growing up, had beaten the great champion on Centre Court.  

Federer grew up looking to “Pistol Pete” and then found the nerve and the wherewithal to take him out in the fourth round of Wimbledon 20 years ago. He says that he felt free to play his game as he did it. And when he had, he was the talk of the town as the vultures circled over Sampras’s career.

On Wednesday afternoon on that same Centre Court, “Hubi” Hurkacz removed Federer from the draw 6-3 ,7-6,6-0 in the quarter-finals. This time, though, Federer had less to offer than Sampras had all those years before and Hubi was in total control as he sped into the last four. Those same vultures circled.

There was a brief moment in the second set when Federer gave the crowd hope (and they were begging for him to turn things around…. oh, how they begged) but it did not last. He broke the Hurkacz serve, he led 4-1. And then it all frittered away. The big, strapping Pole broke back; he took charge in the tiebreak and then he ran away with the third set.

For the first time, the mighty Fed looked every day of his 39 (almost 40; his birthday is on August 8) years. For the first time since he was a rookie, he looked beaten before the final point. By the end, Federer’s body language spoke volumes and his game was in shreds.

He had worked himself narrow to get ready for Wimbledon but, by his own admission, he had only just made the deadline. The plan had to be ready for Wimbledon last year but even if The Championships had gone ahead, he would not have been fit. When they were cancelled, it gave him more time. Or, rather, it would have done had he not been 38 going on 39 last year and 39 going on 40 this summer. Time is running out on the great champion’s career – will he be back? He was not sure.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know; I’ve got to regroup,” he said “With everything that comes after Wimbledon, we [Federer and his team] were always going to sit down and talk about it because clearly now Wimbledon is over. I’ve got to take a few days.

“Obviously we’re going to speak a little bit tonight, depending on how I feel, then the next couple of days as well. Then we go from there. Just see, OK, what do I need to do to get in better shape so I can be more competitive?

“I’m actually very happy I made it as far as I did here and I actually was able to play Wimbledon at the level that I did after everything I went through. Of course I would like to play it again, but at my age you’re just never sure what’s around the corner.”

Federer didn’t sound too hopeful that he would be back but, then again, he ruled nothing out. His 40th birthday looms; as so many of his peers are finding, raging against the dying of the light seldom brings rewards.

Andy Murray is busting a gut to give himself one more shot at glory – but his body stubbornly refuses to help. Stan Wawrinka has tried, tried and tried again to come back from knee surgery and now foot surgery. He is still on the sick list. Federer is now finding that not even he, the eight-time Wimbledon champion and 20-time grand slam champion, can bounce back from surgery and a lengthy lay-off. The older boys are struggling as they attempt to turn back the tide of progress.

“I’m not sure if it’s necessarily matches, to be honest,” Federer said, having only played nine matches since January 2020 as he came into The Championships, “because the body actually overall feels fine from the matches.

“I’m happy I went through all the process of taking losses and trying to play in Paris and Geneva and Doha and Halle, getting myself into match toughness and fitness here in Wimbledon.”

And then the killer blow:

“I definitely need to be a better player if I want to be more competitive at the highest of levels. I knew that coming in. Better players remind you of that, like Hurkacz and Felix did, for instance, in Halle. It gets tough when things get really tricky physically.”

What happens next for Federer? He will take a few days to consider; he will talk to his team and his family and then he will make his announcement.

Is it the end? He does not know. Is the end nearer than we imagined? Wednesday on Centre Court suggests that it most definitely is.