Battling both his opponent's powerful serve and his own injury-prone body, Canadian Milos Raonic made a quarter-final exit at Wimbledon for the second year in a row.
Raonic, the No. 13 seed at the All England Club, lost 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-3 against No. 9 seed John Isner of the U.S., on Wednesday in a battle between two of the most powerful servers in tennis.
After the match, Raonic said he felt like he tore a muscle in his right leg in the first set. He called for a trainer to tape it up while up 6-5 in the first.
"I don't know to what extent," Raonic said. "That's sort of the sensation I had."
Raonic said the injury bothered him while serving and any time he got low at the net.
"There wasn't much going on from the baseline or at the net," he said. "It was only going down for one shot. To sort of transfer the weight, to be able to jump to my serve, because I was doing that every single point I was serving, was the toughest part."
John Isner advances to the semifinals after defeating Milos Raonic in four sets. 1:43
The tennis star from Thornhill, Ont., is no stranger to injury, having pulled out of last month's Queen's Club tournament with a right pectoral strain and missing much of the clay-court season, including the French Open, with an undisclosed ailment.
The former world No. 3 also had an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, including a seven-week absence due to wrist surgery that cost him a chance to play at the U.S. Open.
The injured leg aside, Wednesday's match played out as expected between two hard servers with limited mobility.
"I think it was pretty by the script," Raonic said. "There wasn't many chances. As long as I could hold it, I tried to. Just sort of kept slipping away from me slowly."
American John Isner defeated Canadian Milos Raonic three sets to one in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. 1:07
Isner is the only player at Wimbledon this year not to have had his serve broken — and Raonic had just one break-point opportunity against the six-foot-10 American. Isner responded with an ace on that occasion and then went on to take the third set.
Isner, meanwhile, converted on three of six break-point chances. The first break-point opportunity of the match came in the third set, and Isner made the most of it to go up 3-2.
Raonic said he knew it would be tough to rebound once he got down a break in the fourth.
"Before that, I can hope to hold, try to put a few things here together, play maybe a good return point or two in the tiebreak, maybe take care of my serve," he said. "But just once I got behind a break, it was going to be tough."
Isner fought off a set point in the second set, which marked the eighth straight set to go to a tiebreaker between the two players.
Raonic, fell two wins short of matching his best showing at Wimbledon — a runner-up finish in 2016.
Isner will face No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the semifinals. Anderson upset top seed Roger Federer of Switzerland on Wednesday.
Provided the injury is not serious, Raonic could make a return at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, which starts Aug. 4.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer was a point away from a rather tidy, straight-set victory in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. One lousy point.
And then, slowly, over the next two-plus hours, all the way until the fifth set reached its 24th game, as the temperature dropped and the spectators' cries of "Let's go, Roger!" echoed through the shadows, everything came apart for the eight-time champion against an opponent who'd never beaten him before nor made it this far at the All England Club.
South Africa's Kevin Anderson rallied back from two sets down to eliminate world No. 2 Roger Federer in five sets 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11. 1:50
In a stunning turnaround in an unfamiliar setting — No. 1 Court instead of Centre Court — the top-seeded Federer blew a third-set match point and, eventually, all of his big lead in a 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 loss to No. 8 Kevin Anderson on Wednesday in a 4-hour, 14-minute tussle.
"It was just one of those days where you hope to get by somehow," Federer said. "I almost could have. I should have."
He was leading by two sets and 5-4 in the third when, with Anderson serving, he got to Ad-Out. Could have ended things right then and there. Federer managed to return a 134 mph serve, but on his next stroke, he shanked a backhand.
Federer spoke to the media after his quarter-finals loss at Wimbledon 1:01
Back to deuce. From there, it all began to change. Anderson held for 5-all, broke to 6-5 with a violent return winner off a 97 mph second serve, then staved off three break points and closed the set with a 133 mph ace.
The comeback was just beginning.
"I had my chances," Federer said, "so it's disappointing."
This was only the third time in Federer's 20 years of contesting Grand Slam matches that he lost one after taking the opening two sets; both of the other defeats came in 2011. And, according to the ATP, it's the fifth time Federer lost a match at a major tournament after holding a match point, something else that last happened seven years ago.
How hard was it to see this coming?
Federer was 4-0 against Anderson entering the day, winning every set they'd ever played against each other. But there was more. So much more. Federer was attempting to reach his 13th semifinal at Wimbledon and move closer to title No. 9, both of which would have broken his own records.
He came into the match having won 32 consecutive sets at Wimbledon, a run he stretched to 34 before faltering. And he had held serve 81 games in a row at the grass-court major, a streak that grew to 85 before Anderson broke him a surprising total of four times.
"I just kept on telling myself, 'I have to keep believing.' I kept saying that today was going to be my day, because you really need that mindset taking the court against somebody like Roger," Anderson said. "If you go out there with doubts or unsure what's going to happen, like I maybe did a little bit in that first set, it's not going to go your way."
Not that Anderson is anything other than an elite tennis player. He was, after all, the runner-up at last year's U.S. Open. That also was the closest he's come to winning a Grand Slam trophy, while Federer owns 20.
Anderson never had made it beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon until this week, carried by his booming serve. He hit 28 aces against Federer, saved 9 of 12 break points and managed to hold his own in the rare lengthy baseline rallies.
"It's like that with the big servers," Federer said. "You're never really safe."
As the fifth set became as much a test of mental strength as anything, from 4-all to 6-all to 8-all to 10-all, Anderson was as steady as he needed to be. And it was Federer who blinked, double-faulting to face a break point at 11-all, then slapping a forehand into the net to cede the key break.
Anderson then served it out, ending things with a 128 mph service winner, and raised both arms overhead.
Anderson vs. Isner will be played at Centre Court, of course, a spot Federer knows well. His loss to Anderson was the first match he'd played at No. 1 since 2015.
Nadal, Djokovic through
Three-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic got his wish to play in the main stadium, and he reached his first Grand Slam semifinal since 2016 by beating No. 24 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Djokovic is a 12-time major champion who's been in something of a rut, due to right elbow troubles that lasted more than a year until he finally had surgery in February.
He's been flashing some anger this fortnight and did so again in the second set, bouncing his racket off the turf after failing to capitalize on three break points at 1-all. That earned a code violation from chair umpire Carlos Ramos. When Nishikori let his own racket fly in the fourth set, he wasn't chastised, which prompted Djokovic to yell "double standards" toward Ramos — drawing boos from fans.
"He claims that he didn't see what Nishikori has done, but apparently he always sees what I do," Djokovic said afterward, "something that I don't think is fair."
Rafael Nadal defeated Juan Martin del Potro in a five-set, quarter-final thriller at Wimbledon. 1:03
Later, Ramos warned Djokovic for a time violation, but that didn't seem to faze the Serb.
Soon enough, Djokovic was on his way to the semifinals, where he will meet Rafael Nadal. The No. 2 Spaniard beat Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
"I like the level of tennis that I'm playing on right now. I really do. I think with the performances I've had, I deserve to be in the semifinals," said Djokovic, whose last major title came at the 2016 French Open. "I don't want to stop here. I hope I can get a chance to fight for a trophy."
Djokovic defeated Kei Nishikori three sets to one on Wednesday. 1:03
Canadian hopes alive
Meanwhile, Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski is heading to the semifinals in women's doubles.
The Ottawa native and partner Yifan Xu of China, the tournament's sixth seeds, defeated the unseeded pair of Bethaine Mattek-Sands of the U.S., and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a quarter-final on Wednesday.
It marks the best women's doubles showing at a Grand Slam for the 26-year-old Dabrowski, who advanced to the quarter-finals with Xu at the 2017 U.S. Open and 2018 Australian Open.
Dabrowski and Xu will face No. 12 seeds Nicole Melichar of the U.S. and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic in the semifinals.
Dabrowski has won two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles — the 2018 Australian Open with Mate Pavic and 2017 French Open with Rohan Bopanna.
Pavic and Dabrowski, the top mixed doubles seeds, lost in the third round at Wimbledon.
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