Federer’s serve-volley game faces big test

Operation Fedberg is in full swing at Wimbledon, but faces its sternest test yet in a semi-final blockbuster on Friday.

Taking his silky grasscourt game to another level in his second year with Stefan Edberg in his courtside box, Roger Federer will continue his old-school quest for an unprecedented eighth men’s singles crown against big home hope and 2013 champion Andy Murray.

It shapes as a clash for the ages, with Federer’s majestic net-rushing to be challenged by one of the finest returners in the game.

If ever there’s been evidence that Federer’s appointment of Edberg as a part-time coaching consultant last January has revitalised the 17-time grand slam champion, it’s come in his stylish and seemingly effortless progression to the last four at the All England Club for the 10th time.

In an extraordinary streak stretching nine matches, and back to his second-round encounter with Philipp Kohlschreiber last month in Halle, Federer won 116 consecutive service games before finally being broken in Wednesday’s 6-3 7-5 6-2 quarter-final stroll against Gilles Simon.

Central to his serving masterclasses have been the graceful Swiss’s more-measured forays forward under the tutelage of Edberg, a dual Wimbledon champion himself and serve-volley maestro.

In his first five matches, Federer has won 42 of 51 serve-volley points, the world No.2’s strike rate of 82 per cent at net up from 69 per cent when he made his ninth final last year and lost in five absorbing sets to Novak Djokovic.

Federer – serve-volleying far more frequently, but less successfully in 2014 – says it’s hard to know if the whole package coming together in 2015 means the ageless champion is playing as well as ever.

“If I go out in the semis, then definitely not. But if I do make it to the finals, then we can talk about that,” Federer said.

“It’s been good so far. I felt like I played a very solid last year or so.

“It goes to show what I’m doing off the baseline on my serve, or serve-volleying, the way I’m hitting it and placing it seems to work, especially on the grass now.

“I’m happy to keep it up here now. This is obviously now crunch time when you want to show if your game’s really up to par.”

Federer is relishing a 24th career match-up with Murray and their first grasscourt battle since the Scottish world No.3 reversed his 2012 Wimbledon final defeat with gold-medal glory three weeks later in the London Olympics decider at the All England Club.

“I thought Andy played as good of a final as you can play,” Federer said.

“I never really had a chance. Don’t remember even if I had break points or chances.

“Honestly, it all went by so quickly. He was just better.”

Three years on, and having finally broken Briton’s 77-year wait for another men’s Wimbledon champion, Murray is striving to become the first local since Fred Perry in 1936 to reign on multiple occasions.

“I’ve played Roger many times. I know him well and we get on well but, obviously on Friday, it will be a different story,” Murray said after seeing off Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-4 7-5 6-4 to seal his 150th grand slam match win and a sixth semi-final spot on London’s pristine lawns.

“We’ve played some good matches here and hopefully this will be a great one.”

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