Roger Federer back in a familiar spot

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LONDON -- Youth has been the story of this Wimbledon fortnight.

It has been served again and again -- to the point that a certain 32-year-old father of four has been largely overlooked. An Australian teenager had the audacity to send Rafael Nadal home to the beach in Mallorca, and a pair of frothy, frisky 23-year-olds reached the semifinals.

But on Friday, Roger Federer won his sixth straight match at the All England Club and finds himself in another final, looking for his unprecedented eighth Wimbledon title. If they're going to name a show court after Andy Murray, maybe they should recast the tournament in his name: The Federer Championships.

The scoreline over Milos Raonic -- 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 -- was as tidy and clinical as the Swiss champion's game. It was over in 101 minutes. He'll meet No. 1 Novak Djokovic -- who earlier also beat an ascendant 23-year-old, Grigor Dimitrov -- in Sunday's final.

It was almost surprising to see a faint trickle of sweat on his face when he came off the court. Concentration, he said, was the critical component.

"I had to be very careful on my service games," Federer said. "And I was unbelievably effective. I look very concentrated, but I'm very happy to be in the final. I played some great tennis under pressure.

"I expect a lot of myself here."

When he won here in 2012, at the advanced age of 30, some wondered whether that was it -- if Federer's 17th Grand Slam singles title would be his last. Since then he had failed to reach even a major final, going 0-for-7. The second half of last year was particularly difficult, as Federer crashed out in the second round here and in the fourth at the US Open.

This year, he says, he is healthier, and the results have been encouraging. Federer now has 40 match wins, more than any of the other semifinalists. He has always been an all-court player but this particular tournament represents his best opportunity to add to his Grand Slam total. His window may be shrinking but, at the very least, he has another chance.

Federer is:

• The third-oldest Wimbledon finalist; ageless Australian Ken Rosewall did it at 35 and 39.

• The oldest Grand Slam finalist since 35-year-old Andre Agassi reached the 2005 US Open final.

• Into his mind-boggling 25th Grand Slam final for Federer, five more than the next-best total, which happens to belong to his Spanish nemesis, Nadal.

• A perfect 9-0 in Wimbledon semifinals.

More important, perhaps: Federer will regain the Swiss No. 1 status from Stan Wawrinka

He's done it by channeling his aggressive former self, urged forward by coach Stefan Edberg, who could volley with the best of them. Federer is serving and volleying more than he has in recent years but only about half as much as he did in his salad days. Against Raonic, he won 24 of 32 points at net, a spiffy 75 percent.

All credit to Raonic, who was playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal. The 23-year-old was trying to join compatriot Eugenie Bouchard, who was the first Canadian to advance to a Grand Slam final. Raonic entered the contest with 147 aces in five matches.

Raonic, who will see his ATP World Tour ranking rise to a career-high No. 6, was the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Andy Murray at the Australian Open four years ago. But he's not quite ready for the tennis at the highest level; this was his eighth straight loss to a player ranked in the top four.

Federer, with the grim countenance of an assassin, broke Raonic's very first service game. And though there were a few squirrely moments, he served out the set and created some nice, creative space for himself.

Raonic settled down and began to find a rhythm. But serving at 4-all, his concentration briefly left him. He failed to make a first serve in five tries, starting off with a double fault. A Federer backhand winner down the line was followed by a horrific blown overhead only a few feet from the net. Federer closed the deal, lacing another backhand winner down the line and sauntered to the sideline. He's earned that swagger because he is now 219-2 in major matches when he wins the first two sets.

The break in the third set came again at 4-all, when Raonic made three errors and allowed Federer to win what looked like a hopeless point with a sweet, anticipating forehand.

After his quarterfinals win over 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios, Raonic sent another volley -- this time, aimed at the Big Four.

"It's a thing I guess that you can't really outrun time," Raonic said. "It's nice to see that sort of human side to those four guys when you have to step up to face them. Have a belief more so than ever that it's yours for the taking if you play well."

The only thing Raonic will be taking from this one is the memory of a master-class session -- and maybe a vacation. Federer, meanwhile, has one more match to play. It's one he's been working for ruthlessly through a string of less-than-stellar results.

Pete Sampras won here at Wimbledon in 2000, then went eight majors without a title. He wasn't in great form heading into the 2002 US Open, but he splashed through the draw for his then-record 14th Grand Slam singles title and eventually retired at age of 31.

Twenty-one years to the day, Sampras won his first Wimbledon title, defeating Jim Courier. Twenty-six years to the day, Edberg won his first title at the All England Club, defeating Boris Becker, who is now Djokovic's coach.

Federer's hoping it's an omen.

A win on Sunday would make him the first man to win Wimbledon eight times, one more than Sampras.

"I know I don't have 10 [Wimbledons] left," Federer said. "The first win here was a dream come true. And now the fact that I get another chance to go through these emotions is great."

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