How Roger Federer has become even more dominant

Roger Federer hasn't lost a set at this year's Wimbledon Championships. Is anyone really that surprised?

LONDON -- Roger Federer's journey to a possible record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title didn't begin last week. In fact, it didn't even begin this year.

The renaissance he is enjoying at the All England Club actually began last year in a tournament he didn't even play in.

Despite undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in February, the first major surgical procedural of his career, and dealing with lower back pain, Federer insisted on making the trip to Paris to extend his record of playing in 65 consecutive Grand Slam events.

It didn't take long for Federer to realize he had no business being on a tennis court.

"I went there, and I was doing fitness with my fitness coach, and after like 10 minutes, I looked at him and said, 'I don't know what we're doing in Paris. Seriously, my knee is swollen. I don't feel ready to go. It's maybe the toughest tournament out there. My back is funny. My knee is not well. What are we doing?'

"Instead of doing fitness or warm-ups or whatever we were trying to do, we were talking for an hour and a half until we got kicked out of the room we were in because somebody else had booked it."

Federer's body was making the decision for him. As much as he wanted to play the French Open and every Grand Slam as long as he was an active player, that simply wasn't an option for him anymore. "As a team, we just decided that it's best to skip it," Federer said. "So, it wasn't should I or shouldn't I.

"The body didn't really allow me to play, in my opinion. It was hard. At first, I felt relieved making the decision, but then when it went official and people knew around the world I was not going to play in Paris, I got a little sad, I must admit, because I felt like it was a great record for me to keep going -- 65 Slams in a row. But health is so much more important than trying to hang onto some sort of a record."

In many ways, Federer saying goodbye to that record helped him usher in a new era of dominance few expected to see from him at this stage of his career. Not only did Federer miss the French Open last year, he has missed three of the past five Grand Slams events heading into this year's Wimbledon and looks completely rejuvenated and re-energized as a result.

"Once you hit 30, you've got to look back and think of how much tennis have I played, how much rest did I give my body over the years, how much training have I done, did I do enough, did I overdo it or not enough," Federer said. "It's always calibrating the whole thing. For me it worked out. Sometimes maybe the body and the mind do need a rest."

After his straight-sets defeat of Milos Raonic on Wednesday, Federer is now just two wins away from capturing his first Wimbledon title since 2012. At 35 years old, he could become the oldest man in the Open era to win Wimbledon, surpassing Arthur Ashe's mark by four years.

Federer's path to another Wimbledon crown became a little easier Wednesday when Sam Querrey upset defending Wimbledon champion and world No. 1 Andy Murray and second-seeded Novak Djokovic retired from his quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych with an elbow injury. Rafael Nadal, who had won 28 straight Grand Slam sets dating back to the French Open, was already upset by Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. It is the first time since 2005 that only one of the big four of Federer, Murray, Djokovic and Nadal has advanced to the semifinal at Wimbledon.

But the way Federer has played this season, it would have still been hard to pick against him even if the favorites advanced to the semifinals. Federer began the year by beating Nadal to win the Australian Open.

Federer, who is 29-2 this season, is 8-0 against top-10 players this year, his best start to a season since 2004. He has also won all four finals he has played in this year for just the fourth time in his career.

This kind of run didn't seem possible a year ago when Federer was limited to just seven tournaments and failed to qualify for the ATP Finals. One year after his streak of 15 straight years with a single title was snapped, he is now on the verge of his second Grand Slam title of the year.

One month shy of his 36th birthday, you could make the argument that this current run, given his age and what happened to him last year, may be the most impressive of them all.

"I don't see myself playing better than a few years ago," Federer said. "But I always hope to improve every year. I think it's definitely different ever since my injury. I'm just very happy that I'm still doing so well. Am I surprised? Maybe a little bit. But the plan was always to hopefully be strong later on in my career."