After advancing into the last eight at Roland Garros 2001, Roger Federer repeated that at Wimbledon a couple of weeks later as well, embracing back-to-back Major quarter-finals at the age of 19. Following that memorable victory over Pete Sampras in five sets in the fourth round, Roger faced Tim Henman in the battle for the semi-final, seeking the first victory over the Briton in three encounters.
The Swiss had his chances to at least set the deciding set but it was Henman who prevailed 7-5, 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 in three hours and 13 minutes, staying on the title course and keeping the home nation on high hopes to finally see the first British Wimbledon champions in many decades.
The more experienced player won two points more overall, playing better in the pivotal moments of all three sets he won to seal the deal and reach the last four where he would lose to Goran Ivanisevic. Henman claimed the opener with a break at 5-5, with no breaks of serve in set number two and an exciting tie break where Roger had three set points at 6-3.
With no sign of nerves, Tim seized five straight points to steal the set and forge a massive two sets to love advantage, gaining momentum in front of the partisan crowd ahead of set number three. Federer bounced back with a double break in the third set and fought hard in the fourth as well, overcoming a 5-2 deficit to reach another tie break where he opened a 5-2 lead.
Still, it wasn't to be for him, with Henman turning the tables and winning the breaker 8-6 cross the finish line and leave Federer behind despite all the efforts from the Swiss who had been struggling with a groin injury from the first match.
"I tried to relax after having leg problems and started playing really well. Before that, I didn't feel I was especially returning like I would want and like I was against Pete. I thought I was a little bit late, just couldn't get a hit on the ball; it went better in the third and I fought hard in the fourth, but it was only too late.
My groin bothered me from the very first match and I couldn't fully recover. I don't think it was about the experience because he could have closed out that match much earlier than he did. In the end, my serves were just not as good anymore; normally that you get nervous in the breaker.
I missed maybe a couple of shots and couldn't manage how to stay calm and take the breaker. I checked the stats; I think two points made the difference and one of them was the last forehand volley I missed. Henman's biggest problem is the second serve; anybody can return it without a problem.
His first serve is pretty good, but his second, he doesn't get enough free points off it, he stays back sometimes. If I had returned a little bit better, he would have stayed back a little bit more, and I would have probably gotten better rhythm; I just couldn't get it.
I was surprised my injury came only in the third set, bothering me since the end of the first against Sampras. I don't feel it now when I'm walking around but I do when I have to serve and volley and make quick movements. That's why I called the trainer; that's what helped me a lot against Pete and it did today as well.
Maybe I should have called the trainer earlier because it was already hurting me at the beginning of the third."