Wimbledon 2021: Roger Federer crashes out of SW19 and admits: "I don't know if I'll be back"

The supreme stylist might never have heard a roar like it. Not in 22 years, not on his way to eight glorious triumphs. But Roger Federer was serving to stay in Wimbledon and minutes later he’d been beaten by a player who calls him his hero.

Hubert Hurkacz can't believe he's just beaten his hero
Hubert Hurkacz can't believe he's just beaten his hero

That approbation doesn’t exactly narrow it down. The Swiss is the idol and inspiration of many. This, though, was Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 15 years Federer’s junior, playing his first Grand Slam quarter-final - and the match of his life.

What a contrast they provided: the most graceful mover the Centre Court has ever known and a tall, gangly, awkward fellow with a slightly hen-toed gait. Hurkacz won 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) - and get this - 6-0. An improbable scoreline for Federer and surely the fastest exit he’s ever made from his theatre. With his 40th birthday fast approaching, was this the final curtain-call?

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“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” he said afterwards, reminding us that he’d had to come back from knee surgery to be here. “I feel horribly exhausted. I could have a nap right now, to be honest. I’m very disappointed but I also know that that weight will come off my shoulders. I know I will be upbeat again. I’m hard on myself and can get very sad but then the perspective changes.

The king departs ... Roger Federer bids Centre Court farewell

“The goal was always to play Wimbledon this year and I’m glad I made it. The reception I got was amazing. Of course I would love to play it again but at my age you’re just never sure what’s around the corner. There will be questions. Where is the body? Where is the knee? Where is the mind? We’ll see … ”

Hurkacz was one year old when, in 1998, Federer won the SW19 boys’ title. Then, a year after Hurkacz first picked up a racket, aged six, the Fed was Wimbledon champion for the first time.

Now 24, and ranked 18 in the world, the Pole plays in a cap but didn’t look like he was about to doff it to the tennis god - and quickly found himself with three break points. None was taken but the intent was there. The next chance he got he took it, and saw out the first set with a big serve, pulverising returns and a surprisingly light touch around the net.

In the next set Federer gained the early break but Hurkacz wasn’t about to take a seat in the front row and admire his hero’s efforts to get in the groove. With what seemed like impudence, he caught Federer with a couple of cute drop shots. Federer dropped him back as if to say: “This is how you do it.” Hurkacz dinked another: “Like this?” Losing the tie-break with some uncharacteristically wild swipes seemed to crush Federer and a rare bagel followed.

Hurkacz described the victory as “a dream come true”. His style has been likened to that of a Wimbledon winner - not Federer but Andy Murray - and he admitted he was flattered. “Andy is an unbelievable player for what he has achieved in tennis,” he said. “To be compared to him is special but I’m trying to develop a little of my own style.”

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