LONDON - From the ponytailed whippersnapper who won Wimbledon in 2003 to the grand old master on the verge of being crowned the King of Centre Court, time has failed to take its toll of Roger Federer.
The man who is 36 next month is showing few signs of slowing legs or a decline in dominance. The hair is shorter but the talent is still just as special.
While Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have all gone, the eldest of the Big Four is two wins away from an eighth All England Club title.
No one has achieved this, nor has any man made it to 12 semi-finals here. With that one-handed backhand and stylish swagger of his, who will stop Federer?
Tomas Berdych is the first hurdle and a tall one at that. The 6ft 5in baseliner is the 11th seed and the only barrier between Federer and Sunday’s final.
Should he win his semi-final today, Federer will be one match from becoming the oldest man in the Open era to win Wimbledon.
As one American journalist told him in a press conference: ‘For a very, very old man, you’re moving beautifully.’
After winning the Australian Open in January, Federer’s decision to skip the entire clay-court season did him the world of good before coming to Wimbledon.
Murray and Djokovic tested their joints on the unforgiving surface of the French Open and are now on the treatment table. Federer, on the other hand, is fighting fit and swinging freely.
Here, he has not dropped a set, he hit the 10,000th ace of his career and is already the oldest to reach this stage at SW19 since Ken Rosewall in 1974.
This is his 70th Grand Slam and he has reached the final in 28 of those, though he did not dare dream of such statistics in 2003, when the 21-year-old Swiss burst into tears on TV as Sue Barker asked him about his first Wimbledon win.
‘I was always joking around when I was a boy, “I’m going to win this”,’ he said, holding on to the trophy for dear life. ‘Now I have it. I never thought it would be possible to win a Grand Slam.’
He has, in fact, won another 17 since and the 19th appears as good as his, though Federer insists today’s clash with his 31-year-old Czech opponent is no foregone conclusion.
He and Berdych have faced one another 24 times since 2004 and Federer has lost six - one of them in the Wimbledon quarter-finals seven years ago.
When asked about Berdych and the other semi-finalists, Sam Querrey and Marin Cilic, Federer used the word ‘big’ a total of seven times.
He said they are taller and stronger; that they hit harder and can hurt him, although the same was said about his last victim 26-year-old Milos Raonic, whose analysis of Federer is that the 18-time Grand Slam winner is good at kicking you when you’re down.