Beaten Fed not sure if the show will go on

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As Roger Federer was suffering the unthinkable ignominy of losing 6-0 in what could be the last set he ever plays on Wimbledon Centre Court, another old great could only pass depressing judgement.

John McEnroe, watching from the commentary box, noted forlornly as the master unravelled so swiftly against Hubert Hurkacz on Wednesday: "The question has been 'is there going to be a day when Federer wakes up and feels 39?'

"We're watching that day right now."

It was all too painful to behold, a moment when a sporting era seemed to be passing.

The tennis world has become so used to seeing Federer work his seemingly timeless wonders that it was too hard to watch him being worked over by the splendid Hurkacz, a 24-year-old Pole who'd grown up idolising him and ended up marmalising the Swiss marvel.

Nobody in his 22 Wimbledons had, in 408 sets at the All England Club, ever 'bagelled' the eight-time champ before. Neither had anybody beaten him in straight sets at SW19 since he went down 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 to Mario Ancic 19 years ago.

So, as he waved while trudging hangdog off the court that's for so long been his kingdom, inevitably it felt as if this had been his last Wimbledon hurrah.

"I don't know if we'll ever see the great man again here," sighed another triple champ Boris Becker, echoing the sentiments of the whole Centre Court.

And Federer himself had to agree. "I don't know, I really don't know. I've got to regroup," the 20-times grand slam champion said when asked if he'd be back on his favourite lawn.

"Of course, I'd like to play it again but at my age you never know what's around the corner."

Retirement soon perhaps? "I gotta take my time, take the right decision, the one decision I want to take where I feel most comfortable," he shrugged.

"But, no, I hope that that's not going to happen. The goal is to play, of course."

And he smiled.

Age and achievement has given a dad-of-four perspective. What Federer has done just to be competitive again in five matches here after two knee surgeries and a lack of match practice has been another minor miracle.

But back to capacity again and in mood to celebrate another Fed triumph as a sign of life returning to normal, there was a near-funereal air as the reality dawned that not even the most apparently superhuman of athletes can beat the clock with a 40th birthday a month away.

Serena Williams had departed from the same arena at 39 earlier in the tournament and Federer's loss had a similar whiff of finality about it - minus the tears - as Hurkacz, frankly, made him look his age.

Centre Court sent him off with lump-in-the-throat cheers and Federer admitted that, after 18 months of Herculean effort just to get back, defeat in a strange way had provided a release.

"It's a funny feeling to have, to be honest. You put everything on the line, and when it's all over you could just go sleep because you're so exhausted from the mental (effort)," he said.

"You feel the weight is gone and you're exhausted. I feel horribly exhausted. I could go for a nap right now. That's how I feel."

Only when the great man wakes up from his snooze will he decide if he's up to going to the Tokyo Olympics. Wimbledon 2022 feels an eternity away.

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