Reem's diary: Roger still gets nervous as star names flock to SW19

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Roger Federer fan: Bradley Cooper dons a RF branded hat.

Roger Federer had quite the audience for his quarter-final win against Marin Cilic with actor Bradley Cooper, football icon David Beckham, and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour all in attendance.

Cooper sat in Federer’s box at Wimbledon last year, and Wintour is also a regular figure in his support crew.

Federer said he particularly gets nervous when playing in front of sporting legends.

“They’re really nice guys,” Federer said of Beckham and Cooper.

“It’s cool when guys like this come out, or Jack Nicklaus is here. I love that. Sporting figures, or celebrities, it’s nice. It elevates the tournament as well.

“Back in the day, I was nervous playing in front of my family, then in front of famous people, then in front of famous sports people, famous tennis players.

David Beckham watches on.

David Beckham watches on.

“At the end of the day today what makes me nervous is playing before really legends of our sport.

“That’s the only thing that still gets me nervous, when I see guys sitting watching my match. When I see them watching, I feel like ‘better play well, you don’t want to disappoint legends of our sport’.”

Other famous faces in the Wimbledon stands this past week include One Direction’s Niall Horan, who had ditched the main show courts to go catch Eugenie Bouchard’s match with Dominika Cibulkova in the third round on Court No. 2. Actress Sienna Miller has also been here the past couple of days.

The VIP guests usually enter from Gate 13, which is where most media go through as well because it is where tournament transport drops us off. It’s also where the paparazzi hang out waiting for the celebrities to show up. Here’s hoping I don’t end up photo-bombing a Bradley Cooper or a David Beckham one day.

Taking in the action: Niall Horan.

Taking in the action: Niall Horan.

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of football talk among the players here at Wimbledon with the Euros taking place at the same time but basketball has popped up on the agenda following the news of Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors.

“That is crazy. They are stacked,” was Serena Williams’ reaction to Durant’s decision.

Nick Kyrgios, a huge Boston Celtics fan who even wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune titled ‘Why I bleed green’, was far from thrilled by the latest news.

“Disgrace. It’s a joke. I’m not watching the NBA,” said the Aussie of Durant’s move.

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Federer and Murray survive five-set scares to reach semis

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Fighting through: Roger Federer.

Once a ‘Big Four’, always a ‘Big Four’ – that is the lesson learned from Wednesday’s hard-fought quarter-final victories posted by Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

Federer stared defeat right in the face, saving three match points and coming back from a two-sets-to-love deficit to beat Marin Cilic 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3 and move into the last-four, equalling Jimmy Connors’ record of 11 Wimbledon semi-finals reached.

The Swiss also took sole ownership of the record for most grand slam match wins by a man or a woman in the history of the sport, taking his total to 307 – one more than Martina Navratilova. Later, on Centre Court, Andy Murray was taken the distance by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before coming through 7-6(10), 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, to post his 100th career victory on grass. It was Tsonga’s first defeat in seven five-set matches he has played at Wimbledon.

Federer described Cilic’s play yesterday as “US Open-esque” and it was an apt statement. The Croat played a near-flawless first three sets that were reminiscent of his form from the 2014 US Open semi-finals, when he beat Federer in straights.

But when it came down to it, it was mind over matter that prevailed, with Federer bringing out some clutch serving when needed, while Cilic squandered three opportunities to close out the match in the fourth set. It was the 10th time Federer has managed to come back from two-sets-to-love in a match, which is an Open Era record he shares with Boris Becker and Aaron Krickstein.

“I fought, I tried, I believed. At the end I got it done. So it was great on so many levels,” said Federer, who faces Milos Raonic in the semis.

Cilic saved two break points in game five in an otherwise dead-even first set, that went to a tiebreak. The No. 9 seed went up 5-0 in the breaker and took the lead with a ripping return on a Federer second serve to close out the set.

Federer was broken in the third game of the second, and that was all Cilic needed to take a two-set lead.

Cilic’s passing shots were on point and he fired one for a winner to get three break points at 3-3 in the third. Federer saved all of them and that hold proved a real turning point.

The Croat double-faulted to gift Federer a break for 5-3 and the Swiss served out the set to stay alive in the quarter-final showdown.

Cilic got his hands on a pair of break points in the fourth game but Federer brought out his serving best to save both and hold for 2-all.

The world No. 3 showcased some Rafa-like defence in the following game to put pressure on the Cilic serve – a killer running backhand passing shot and another down-the-line backhand winner helping him to two break points. This time, it was Cilic who served big to get out of trouble.

In the tiebreak, Federer led 5-3 but Cilic pegged him back. The 27-year-old did not capitalise on a Federer second serve when he had a third match point and despite saving four set points, Cilic faltered on the fifth, netting a forehand allowing Federer to force a deciding set. Cilic was on a five-match winning streak in five-set matches but it did not matter.

Federer had raised his level to an inconceivable height and was riding the wave. A break for 5-3 in the fifth was all the Swiss needed and he wrapped up his win with back-to-back aces.

“Mentally this is going to give me a hell of a boost,” said Federer, who has never lost any of the 10 Wimbledon semi-finals he has reached.

Meanwhile, Murray needed almost four hours to overcome French No. 12 seed Tsonga and set up a last-four clash with 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych.

The Scot world No. 2 blew a 4-2 lead in the fourth set to allow Tsonga back in the match before running away with the fifth.

“I could have won it in four but he came up with some really good stuff when he needed it,” said Murray, who is into his seventh semi-final.

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Mental strength the key to success for Serena

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Moving onwards: Serena Williams.

When Serena Williams describes the essence of her game, she does not choose a specific shot. She doesn’t talk about her flexibility or movement, nor does she mention her power.

“My game is my mental toughness,” she says succinctly. “Just not only to be able to play, to win, but to be able to come back when I’m down. Both on the court and after tough losses, just to continue to come back and continue to fight, it’s something that takes a lot of tenacity.”

Her last-four meeting today against unseeded Elena Vesnina will be Serena’s eighth consecutive grand slam semi-final appearance – a stretch that is made all the more remarkable by the fact that she is turning 35 and already has 21 majors trophies. How could she possibly still crave for more?

“I think it’s great. You know, like I said, it just shows another mental toughness of mine, just being able to come through and consistently get to this stage of the tournament. I think it’s something that is really noteworthy,” she explained.

Serena finds herself at a grand slam semi-final, together with sister Venus, for the 11th time in their careers, but this is the first occasion this has happened since 2009. The accomplishments of the Williams family have been told, retold, and documented in every shape and form but the full picture will never be fully captured until they both retire.

“I’m surprised of the longevity of it. That definitely took me by surprise,” says Serena of her and Venus’ life story. “But also when you’re younger and you have a dream and you say it and you believe it, that’s one thing. But for it to really happen and to come true, it’s just a completely different emotion.”

Serena, targeting a seventh Wimbledon trophy, and an Open Era record-equalling grand slam title, leads Vesnina 4-0 head-to-head but they haven’t faced off, in singles, since 2013.

“She has a really good grass court game, I think,” said Serena. “She has a really good serve. I notice that she always works on things and she always improves her game.

“She’s also very aggressive. She comes to the net. I know her game really, really well. It’s good to play someone’s game that you know. I think, yeah, I’ll be ready for it.”

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