For now, all is well in Federer land

Roger Federer

LONDON -- He has rolled through this tournament with the cool efficiency of the Swiss Federal Railway trains that connect Zurich, Lucerne and Lausanne. The calm precision of the prized Rolex, Omega and Breitling watches produced in Geneva, Biel/Bienne and Grenchen.

The joke they tell in Switzerland is that the trains are so punctual, folks set their watches to them.

Roger Federer, at 32, is very much a creature of his Basel-born environment. When he was the best tennis player in the world, he would steal ruthlessly through the Grand Slam draws on a cat-quick feet of a burglar. He won an unprecedented 16 major titles in a span of 27 events from 2003-10 and then, inevitably, he found himself past his prime.

Instead of refusing to accept anything less than his best, Federer has persevered. Admittedly, the results have not always been aesthetically pleasing. Two years ago, when he won his seventh title here at the All England Club, it was seen by some as the last stand of the greatest champion ever. Federer, however, wasn't one of them.

Even when he exited ignominiously in the second round a year ago, he knew he could do better. With improved health and a little luck in the draw, in his mind there were still possibilities.

On Sunday, Federer takes Centre Court for the men's final opposite No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic secure in the belief he can win his record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title.

Not much has been made of it, but Federer is playing in his 59th consecutive Grand Slam, three more than the next-best total in the 46 years of the Open era.

"I never had a five-month break or anything like that," Federer said after beating Milos Raonic in a straight-sets semifinal. "I think for that you need to be, first of all, healthy physically, but also mentally ready to do it.

"You've got to love the game, because if you don't love it, then it's just going to be too hard. I think that's kept me going quite easily actually, because I know why I'm playing tennis. Deep down that's really important."

Going in, there was a consensus that Federer would need to find some fortune in the draw -- and he did.

Because Wimbledon exercises discretion in seedings, No. 3-ranked Stan Wawrinka was downgraded to the No. 5 seed, trading places with No. 5-ranked Andy Murray. The way it played out, Federer got Wawrinka -- a man he has beaten 14 of 16 times now -- in the quarterfinals. Although he dropped a set -- and his only service game of the tournament -- Federer advanced to the semifinals opposite Raonic, who has never beaten him in five tries. It could have been his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, but the No. 2-seeded Nadal was stunned in the fourth round by Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios, and Kyrgios, in turn, was beaten by Raonic.

So Federer is in the final without having to play Nadal (against whom he is 10-23) or Murray (10-11). And he has done it by compiling some extremely low mileage.

Federer has won 18 of 19 sets and averaged 1 hour, 43 minutes per match. Djokovic, meanwhile, has dropped three sets and averaged 2 hours, 31 minutes per match. This is relevant because Djokovic lost a tired final here last year when he was extended in the semifinals by Juan Martin del Potro.

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