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Not just another Manic Monday: Federer, Djokovic, Kerber win

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Switzerland's Roger Federer leaves Centre Court after defeating Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during the men's singles fourth round match on day seven of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Monday, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

WIMBLEDON – Excitement and adoration greeted every point claimed by Roger Federer — “aaahs” and applause for a sliced backhand return or a 94 mph sliding wide ace, an unreachable drop volley or a forehand flicked suddenly and ferociously.

It all got to be too much for his opponent at the All England Club, No. 23 seed Lorenzo Sonego. So in the latter stages of his 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 loss to the eight-time champion, Sonego would win a point and mark the occasion by waving his arms to ask the crowd for some love, as if to say, “Hey, I'm here, too, OK?”

The match was the last at Centre Court on what was Wimbledon’s last Manic Monday: As of next year, no longer will all 16 women's and men's fourth-round singles matches be scheduled on one day, a tradition vanishing along with that of a Middle Sunday without any play. And yet, amid all the chaos of a packed schedule, one could be forgiven for imagining Federer held the stage to himself.

He's coming off a pair of knee operations last season and he's participating in a Grand Slam tournament for the last time before turning 40. So who knows how many of these he has left? Even Federer himself didn't really know what he would be able to muster this fortnight.

“Well, I mean, 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,” said Federer, who only had played eight matches in 2021 before last week.

“I can actually wake up in the morning and feel all right. ... It's very rewarding and it’s a good feeling,” he said. “Now we’ll see how much more I got left in the tank.”

The raucous support he received created a more vibrant atmosphere than at other contests spread around the grounds, whether involving victories for past title winners Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber — she ended 17-year-old American Coco Gauff’s run — or for one of the 11 players who earned a debut trip to the quarterfinals at the grass-court major.

“We’ll look back in 20 years, 50 years, from now and this is it," Federer said. “This was the last Middle Sunday, the last Manic Monday.”

The main stadium's retractable roof was shut when rain arrived late in the first set, a delay of more than 20 minutes that, not incidentally, was followed by an immediate double-fault by Sonego on break point to fall behind 6-5.

That was the only opening Federer really needed as he moved into his record-extending 18th quarterfinal at Wimbledon. At 39, with his milestone birthday arriving Aug. 8, Federer is the oldest Wimbledon quarterfinalist in the Open era, which began in 1968.

Djokovic made it to his 12th quarterfinal at the All England Club while continuing his pursuit of a calendar-year Grand Slam, never troubled a bit while defeating No. 17 Cristian Garín 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

“It’s not a secret that I am trying to win as many Slams as possible,” said the top-seeded Djokovic, who needs to win three more matches this week to equal the men’s record of 20 major singles titles currently shared by Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Next up for him is Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, one of five first-time men’s quarterfinalists who advanced Monday, alongside Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, and Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who emerged from a 13-break fifth set to edge American Sebastian Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8.

“Yeah, 13 breaks, it’s tough to explain,” the 25th-seeded Khachanov said. “On the other side, it’s easy to explain. When you are returning, let’s say, better, you start to read the serves better, and then in play, in the rallies, both of us were more stressed, more tight."

Korda’s take? “I don’t know what was happening out there,” said the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr and brother of the No. 1 women’s golfer at the moment, Nelly.

Khachanov meets Shapovalov on Wednesday, while Berrettini faces Auger-Aliassime.

Federer doesn’t know his next opponent. That’s because the match between two-time major finalist Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz was suspended because of rain in the fourth set at No. 2 Court, which doesn’t have a roof.

“It’s not fair, but it’s how it goes. These guys are young, they can recover. It’s not a problem for them,” Federer said with a knowing smile about the two 20-somethings. “Unfortunately they’re very, very good, too.”

And then, joking some more, Federer added: “Hopefully it rains again tomorrow.”

The women’s quarterfinals are Tuesday: No. 1 Ash Barty vs. Alja Tomljanovic; Kerber vs. Karolina Muchova; Karolina Pliskova vs. Viktorija Golubic, and Aryna Sabalenka vs. Ons Jabeur.

Australia’s Barty and Tomljanovic, Belarus’ Sabalenka, Tunisia’s Jabeur, the Czech Republic’s Pliskova and Switzerland’s Golubic have never been to the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Kerber, a three-time major champion who beat Serena Williams in the 2018 Wimbledon final, produced the steadier play after her match against Gauff began with five service breaks in a row in blustery conditions.

After dumping a forehand into the net to trail 3-2 after 15 minutes, Gauff whacked her calf with her racket. Later, she admonished herself for another miss by smacking her shoe.

“Disappointed. I know I can do better,” said Gauff, beaten by eventual champion Simona Halep in Wimbledon's fourth round two years ago. “But it’s just going to give me more motivation to go back and practice and come back stronger.”

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AP Sports Writer Steven Wine contributed to this report.

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