ROGER Federer laughed off the suggestion that he still has unfinished business at Wimbledon, hardly surprising considering he has more men’s singles titles to his name here than any other player in history. But his business is finished at South West London for another 12 months at least, after a supreme display of serving and formidable forehand hitting from South Africa’s Kevin Anderson saw him became the latest superstar of world tennis to fall victim to the curse of Court No 1. Greatest player of all time or not, Federer himself insisted he had only been “average” yesterday.

“Of course, the goal is to come back here next year,” said Federer. “I wouldn’t call it ‘unfinished business’. I felt like I did some good business here in the past already. So I’m all right. Just disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but average.”

No wonder the sport’s biggest names avoid this arena like the plague. Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic both crashed out here last year, against Gilles Muller and Tomas Berdych respectively. And to think it used to be the old Court No 2 which was regarded as the graveyard of champions. “I don’t think it would have changed if I played there [on Court No 1] last year. It’s not like I would have remembered exactly how it would have felt. I don’t think it really mattered, to be honest. I had my chances and blew them.”

If Federer wasn’t complaining afterwards about the decision to move him off Centre for the first time in three years, ticket holders certainly weren’t either. In fact, there were probably lottery winners feeling short-changed by comparison with the lucky 11,000 or so punters in here yesterday.

Not only did the organisers’ determination to give Kei Nishikori and Juan Martin del Potro at least one match on Centre give them some surprise star quality, they found themselves treated to the best four hours and 14 minutes of this year’s men’s singles by a country mile, Anderson saving a Federer match point at 5-4 in the third set and eventually winning the day in a score of 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11. Not to mention witnessing a moment of sporting history which will reverberate around the globe for quite some time. It was a bit like going down to an open mic spot at your local pub and finding that Paul McCartney going through the Beatles back catalogue.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner, who will be 37 by the time this tournament ticks round next year, insisted he would definitely be back for another bid to claim title No 9 in 12 months’ time and there was no reason to doubt him. But there was something very un-Federer like about the way he let a two-set lead slip for the first time since 2011, when he did so twice in short order against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France here and Djokovic in the US Open. At least not like this new version of Federer who has cast all before him since 2017.

Anderson – a laid-back big dude who came through the American college system – likes nothing more when he wants to unwind but getting the guitar out and he was certainly on-song yesterday, sending down 28 aces at speeds of around 130mph. Unafraid to go after the fearsome Federer forehand, the Swiss obliged with unforced errors. Like a boxer bossing a fight, he dominated the centre of the court, forcing Federer’s 36-year-old legs to run 300m more over the course of the match.

If there was little sign of this as the Swiss legend raced through that first set 6-2 in just 26 minutes, the first clue was a heavy forehand approach from the No 8 seed which forced a backhand mistake, the first Federer service break of the tournament and left him muttering obscenities in Swiss. While he took that second set in a tie-break, a shanked backhand put paid to match point and Anderson sensed a chance, ripping a backhand return on set point to snap a remarkable Federer run of 34 sets in a row. Soon we were into a decider and what a decider it was. Federer blinked first and Anderson needed only one chance to serve for the match. When a final Federer backhand flew out, he walked a few steps as if in a daze, before raising his arms aloft in stunned disbelief. “I just felt like today was going to be my day,” said Anderson. “I guess in the end I was right.”