The task was daunting.
Milos Raonic, the 25-year-old Canadian seeking his first visit to a Grand Slam final, up against Roger Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion and one of tennis’ all-time greats.
Federer, who had reached three of the past four Wimbledon finals, entered Friday’s match against Raonic with a perfect 10-0 record in The Championships’ semifinals. He’s now 10-1.
Raonic defeated the Swiss star 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in a classic semifinal, earning the Thornhill, Ontario native a spot in Sunday’s final. The championship match is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET on TSN.
“He has the most achievements and successes in tennis. More than anybody by a good amount at this point,” Raonic said in his post-match press conference about the legendary Federer. “You’re playing who Roger is today, not who he’s been the past few years.
“You try not to spend too much time and attention thinking about him – especially for myself. I’ve always got to think about myself first.”
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This wasn’t the first time the two had met at this stage of a Grand Slam. Raonic faced Federer in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014 and lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
“It’s definitely a great feeling for many different aspects,” Raonic said Friday. “Obviously what happened here two years ago I was very disappointed with. Today I persevered. I kept sort of plugging away. I was struggling through many parts of the match. He gave me a little opening at the end of the fourth and I made the most of it.
“I did a lot of things well. My attitude kept me in the match and I think that’s what made the difference.”
Federer had won nine of the 11 previous meetings between the two. Raonic has the edge in 2016 though, defeating Federer in January at the Brisbane International and again on Friday.
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The victory was historic for a few reasons. Raonic will become the first Canadian male to play in a singles final of a Grand Slam in the Open era. He’ll also be the first 1990s-born male to appear in a Grand Slam final. To top it all off, Friday’s win was the Canadian’s first against a top-three ranked player at a Slam event.
There’s something about Wimbledon that seems to bring out the best in Canadian tennis players. At the 2014 tournament, Genie Bouchard became the first player from Canada to play in a Grand Slam final.
Before Raonic reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014, no Canadian had reached the final four of a Grand Slam since Robert Powell did so at the All England Club in 1908.
“(It’s a) pretty special feeling for myself but I think it’s a pretty special recognition to the state of Canadian tennis. It’s not just me,” said Raonic. “There’s many people that are doing well on this stage and the junior stages. There’s a lot to look forward to, a lot of prospects, a lot of hope and there’s a lot of positive future in Canadian tennis. It’s great to be at the centre, front of that come Sunday.”
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After beating the No. 3 seeded Federer in the semifinals, things don’t get any easier for Raonic. He’ll face No. 2 seeded Andy Murray in Sunday’s final, who defeated Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in Friday’s semifinals.
Raonic said he doesn’t want to get sucked into playing Murray’s game, which happened when the two met in the final at the Queens Club Championships in London last month.
“I didn’t play on my terms and that’s going to be the most important thing for me.”
The two have met in the semifinals of a Grand Slam previously, with Murray winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 at the Australian Open earlier this season. All-time, Murray is 6-3 against Roanic.