LONDON (Reuters) – Hubert Hurkacz was just two when Roger Federer made his Wimbledon debut in 1999 and aged six when the Swiss won the first of his record 20 Grand Slam titles at the championships in 2003.
To top it all, the 24-year-old who hails from Wroclaw in Poland is still a grasscourt novice having won only four matches on turf before rocking up at the All England Club last week.
With Hurkacz never having strung together more than two back-to-back wins at a major, thousands of Federer fans who had flocked to Centre Court on Wednesday for the men’s quarter-final thought the Pole would be a pushover for their hero.
After all, what kind of challenge would he pose for a Swiss who is considered tennis royalty, especially since the eight-time champion has no equal when it comes to collecting men’s Wimbledon titles?
But the Polish upstart was in no mood to play gentleman-in-waiting and gatecrashed Federer’s kingdom with a fearless brand of tennis that brutally ended the Swiss player’s dream of hoisting the gilded Challenge Cup for a record ninth time.
The Pole’s 6-3 7-6(4) 6-0 demolition job not only knocked Federer out of his beloved tournament but he also achieved something no man had ever done at Wimbledon – hand the Swiss a dreaded bagel set.
“Playing against Roger in a Grand Slam quarter-final, it’s a very big thing for me,” said the 14th seed who had celebrated his triumph with a flying leap.
“Walking off the court realising that I won against Roger, (it’s) just kind of dream come true, especially here on grass in Wimbledon. Felt so special.”
On paper, the match could not have been more lop-sided.
Federer was chasing a record 106th win at Wimbledon.
He was gunning for his 193rd victory on grass.
He appeared to be a shoo-in to seal his place in the Wimbledon semi-finals for a 14th time, and his 47th last-four berth across all majors.
Surely he would be able to notch up his 370th match win at the majors and 1,252nd of his career on Wednesday?
These eye-watering numbers are the kind of statistics that up-and-coming players such as Hurkacz can only dream of.
Rather than get bamboozled by Federer’s encyclopedia-volume of records, however, what Hurkacz did do was dream big and claim the biggest scalp in grasscourt tennis to reach his first major semi-final.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond)