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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, July 14, 2017

Grass-court tennis rewards athleticism and bold strikes.

Roger Federer brought elevation to the equation soaring to his record 11th Wimbledon final.

Watch: Cilic Powers Past Querrey Into Wimbledon Final

Lifting his level of aggression at the right times, an inspired Federer deployed his variety wisely defusing Tomas Berdych, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4, advancing to his third Wimbledon final in the last four years.

"It makes me really happy, you know, marking history here at Wimbledon," Federer said. "It's a big deal. I love this tournament. All my dreams came true here as a player. To have another chance to go for number eight now, be kind of so close now at this stage, is a great feeling.

Yeah, unbelievably excited. I hope I can play one more good match. 11 finals here, all these records, it's great. But it doesn't give me the title quite yet. That's why I came here this year. I'm so close now, so I just got to stay focused."

Contesting his 19th Wimbledon, Federer has yet to surrender a set in six matches to move to within one win of his first Wimbledon title since 2012 and second major championship of the season.

The 35-year-old Swiss, the oldest men's Wimbledon finalist since a 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1974, will play 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in Sunday’s final.

The seventh-seeded Cilic cracked 25 aces surging past Sam Querrey, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 in two hours and 56 minutes.

A commanding Cilic made Federer look helpless for two-and-a-half sets in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year. 

In a match of staggering intensity and stunning plot twists, Federer fought off three match points rallying from a two-set deficit to edge Cilic, 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3, and advance to his 11th Wimbledon semifinal.

Federer has won six of seven meetings with Cilic, whose lone victory was a dominant straight-sets sweep in the 2014 US Open semifinals.

Bidding for his second trip to the Wimbledon final, Berdych opened up his game and played periods bold tennis, but it wasn’t enough to match the dynamic aggression and serving precision Federer delivered on pivotal points.

Though he looked frustrated at times after misses, Federer found another gear under pressure. The third seeded Swiss lashed 53 winners, including 13 aces, denied five of the six break points he faced and continues to defy age. 

"It's very difficult. I mean, as I said before, this guy doesn't really seems is getting any older or anything like that, or slowing down at all," Berdych said. "It's extremely difficult. I think I played really good tennis throughout the whole tournament. But, you know, I just unfortunately faced a guy that he's playing in his best. I think he's playing by far the best tennis right now."

Through six matches and 17 total sets, Federer has surrendered serve just four times.

Mixing the low backhand slice with flat drives, Federer tried keeping the big-hitting Berdych unsettled.

At 2-all, Federer dipped a devious slice right in front of the baseline where worn out patch produce an unruly bounce. He stepped in and roped a forehand winner down the line for another break point.

Berdych saved it, but was forced into an off-balance forehand off a funky net cord. Federer swooped in for a forehand pass for a third break point.

Tomahawking a heavy inside-out forehand, Federer followed with a swing volley winner down the line earning the first break in the fifth game.

Hands and vision combined for an exquisite drop volley before Federer fired an ace capping a 60-second hold to consolidate for 4-2.

In the eighth game, Berdych surprised Federer curling a short-angled forehand winner for a second break point. Federer slid an ace down the middle to save it. Amping up his aggression returning the second serve, Berdych banged out another break point. Feeling the return pressure, Federer hit his second double fault to give back the break.

Staring down break point at 5-all, Berdych blasted a 122 mph ace down the middle. A dipping slice brought Berdych in and Federer banged a pass right at the body for another break point. Berdych brought 130 mph heat to deny it as a quality set reached tie break climax.

Forward pressure helped Federer create the first mini-break with a high backhand volley into the corner for a 3-1 tie break lead. A low chipped return from Berdych coaxed a forehand error to get the mini break back.

Down 3-4, Berdych blinked flattening a forehand down the line into net.

Lashing his one-handed backhand off the baseline, Federer drew a shanked reply from a kneeling Berdych squeezing out the 53-minute opener.

Bold serving helped Berdych save the sixth of seven break points during a gritty hold for 2-all. That stand ended with the 31-year-old Czech wiping the sweat from his face near the shade of the back wall. Outplayed in the early stages of the set, Berdych gamely stayed in step.

The seven-time champion faced a break-point test in the seventh game but denied it with some heavy serving. An elegantly improvised backhand flick down the line helped Federer hold for 5-4.

Serving out of a 15-30 hole, Berdych thumped his eighth ace to draw even.

The dancing sidespin the Swiss generates off his forehand enables Federer to create angles Berdych can't match and push the bigger man into defensive positions on the slippery edges of the lawn.

A cluster of four consecutive crunching forehands broke open the second-set tie break.

An acute-angled forehand crosscourt followed by a flicked running crosscourt pass gave Federer the mini break and a 4-1 lead. Drilling a diagonal forehand winner brought him to 5-1.

Bolting a backhand return down the line, Federer snatched a two-set lead.

Still, the 18-time Grand Slam champion wasn’t satisfied. Netting a forehand on break point, Federer barked at himself as Berdych held then tightened the screws with double break point in the sixth game.

A scalding series of serves—three aces and a service winner—saw Federer squash the stress holding for 3-all.

Following his quarterfinal conquest of Milos Raonic, the 18-time Grand Slam champion cast himself as a bit of a physical underdog among the three other towering semifinalists.

"They've got big serves, big forehands, big hitters really. All three guys are taller and stronger than I am," Federer said. "I got to figure out a different way, carve my way through the draw somehow with my slice and my spins, my consistency maybe."

Fluid movement, timely serving, the smooth transition from defense to offense and Federer's uncanny ability to put the flatter-hitting Berdych into unsettled situations were all assets for Federer today.

Crunching a crosscourt forehand, Federer earned triple match point. Berdych’s final forehand return found the net ending a two-hour, 18-minute test. The Australian Open champion now takes aim at his fifth title in seven tournaments starts this season.

A triumphant Federer raised his arms one win from an eighth Wimbledon championship—and he won’t have to beat another member of the departed Big 4 to win it.

"It definitely changes. Thank God I've played also guys who were not called Rafa, Andy or Novak in the past, like (Marcos) Baghdatis and (Fernando) Gonzales and others," Federer said. From that standpoint I don't want to say it's more relaxed going into it because I have a good head-tohead record against Marin, even though the matches were extremely close. But it's not like we've played against each other 30 times. You feel like you have to reinvent the wheel.

"It's more straightforward, in my opinion. I think that's nice in some ways. It's a nice change, but it doesn't make things easier, in my opinion."


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