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Song of the Summer: Roger Federer plays off inspired Lorenzo Sonego on Wimbledon's final Manic Monday
The eight-time champion kept the crowd cheering as he booked his 18th quarterfinal appearance at SW19.
Published Jul 06, 2021
WATCH: Roger Federer fends off an entertaining challenge from Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets at Wimbledon.
We tend to put our favorite songs on repeat. Spotify commercials that play through Wimbledon changeovers on East Coast television put forth creative ways in which we opt out of curated playlists in favor of our singular anthem, the one we can’t just get out of our heads.
For nearly two decades—and again today through wind, rain and, ultimately, the Centre Court roof—the Wimbledon refrain remains the same: “Play it again, Rog.” And so, on the last Manic Monday in tournament history, Swiss maestro Roger Federer plays on and into the quarterfinals, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, turning up the volume at all the right times to drown out at-times intriguing first and second verses from No. 23 seed Lorenzo Sonego.
A metaphor, to be sure, but not one entirely unmoored from reality. The 26-year-old came to the All England Club not only in stellar grass-court form—finishing runner-up to Alex de Minaur in Eastbourne—but also armed with tennis’ very own song of the summer entitled Un Solo Secondo. Recording the single with a childhood friend, Sonego was sheepish about his very public side hustle, looking to have more success duetting his formidable serve and forehand.
And indeed, Sonego's tennis played quite loudly and garnered mass appeal through a competitive opening set against the No. 6 seed, who is decidedly more Rondo Capriccioso than reggaetón. Silencing the crowd with an undeniable one-two step, Sonego reeled off a whopping 11 straight points to turn around a 5-3 deficit. As a climactic 11th game reached its 20th point, a blustery wind gave way to rain and put the performers off court long enough for the roof to close.
The change in acoustics immediately flattened Sonego’s momentum and Federer, himself a hobbyist crooner and, more importantly, a steady hand through changing trends both musical and athletic, weathered the elements and a fiery Sonego to restore order and move ahead by a set and a break.
"Today if I look at how Sonego played me indoors, he could not get by me any more with his serve," Federer explained after the match, "and he has a nice first serve. It's just amazing the difference an indoor and an outdoor situation can do. You would think that indoors is easier to ace. I don't feel it's the case. I feel like you have to put extra power in your shots that something happens.
"I think that was one of the reasons for me that I maybe struggled early on because you can become very insecure when you don't get your service winners."
Much as Sonego aimed to ignite the crowd through inspired pushes in the second set, Federer carried on with his unchained melody and was soon up 5-1 in the third. Serving out the two-hour, 11-minute encounter with vintage aplomb, the 20-time major champion opened the final game with back-to-back winners—totaling 32 for the match—before forcing one last error from the Italian to ease into the last eight.
“I guess to some extent it's nice to see that the work I put in paid off, that I'm able to play at this level with best-of-five sets," Federer said. "There's always different ways to go about it. Playing five days in a row is different than playing best-of-five sets every second day, let's say. You need different attributes, let's say.
“The same thing goes with tournaments, playing back-to-back tournaments or playing every second week. All that stuff, when you're young, you don't ask yourself the question. But when you're me, with the year I had, it's all question marks all over the place. You have to prove it again to yourself that you can actually do it. I was willing to take losses for the sake of information, just to be out there, get the body in shape for hopefully when Wimbledon comes around that I can actually wake up in the morning and feel all right, that I can still go out and play five sets.
“I feel that way, so it's very rewarding and it's a good feeling. Now we'll see how much more I got left in the tank. Clearly was important again to win in straight sets. Looking forward to the next round.”
Making his 22nd Wimbledon appearance, Federer can now claim 18 quarterfinals on his illustrious resume, including 17 in the last 18 years. In addition to continuing to fend off the fast-encroaching next generation, he also has, on the brink of his 40th birthday, outlasted Middle Sunday itself, one of the tournament’s most enduring traditions.
"I don't know how old the tournament actually is," Federer admitted in his on-court interview. "I should know, but I don't! But when we look back in 20 or 50 years, I'm happy to have played in an era with a Middle Sunday even if we have to change with the times."
His next opponent is unknown as No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev and Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz will resume the fourth set of their rain-delayed fourth round on Tuesday.
“These guys are young,” he adds, smiling in the face of Father Time. “Unfortunately, they’re very good too, so hopefully it rains again tomorrow!”
The break allows Federer to continue his extended meditation about SW19’s hallowed lawns—he spent the very last Middle Sunday touring the empty grounds—before its siren song beckons him back on repeat for an anticipated quarterfinal clash and a resumption to his quest for a ninth Wimbledon crown.