For the second straight Grand Slam, longtime legendary rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet in the semifinals, this time at Wimbledon for the first time in 11 years.
Both tennis greats were on late on quarterfinal day at the Championships. Federer was on Centre Court and after dropping his first service game followed by the opening set, he took command of Kei Nishikori for a comfortable 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win.
“Overall, I’m just very happy how I’m hitting the ball,” said Federer who never lost serve again after the first game. “Feel good off the baseline, too, which is clearly going to be important, maybe, for the next match.”
The victory was Federer 100th of his career at Wimbledon making the Swiss the first man in history to reach that number at a single Slam.
He also advanced to his 13th Wimbledon semifinal and 45th Slam semifinal.
Nadal was on Court 1 against the big-serving Sam Querrey. The American, who made the Wimbledon semifinals two years ago, broke Nadal as the Spaniard served for the opener. That was about the only drama in the match as Rafa broke right back, served out the first and then dominated Querrey’s second serve to a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory, claiming 14 of the last 18 games.
“I think I am playing with a very high intensity, playing aggressive, serving well and returning very well,” Nadal said. “Today was a big, big challenge against a server like Sam. [I broke] him six times, which is a lot against a player like him… I am very, very happy with the way I am playing.”
While Nadal was broken once, Querrey, who had held 71 of 72 times, dropped serve on six occasions. The California native won just 28% on his second serve.
“He makes a ton of just stab returns in, then he puts a little extra pressure on you coming in because he has such great passing shots,” Querrey said. “Forced a few more errors than I like. But then at the same time, he hit a handful of great passing shots by me. Just the combination of those few things makes it tougher than playing some other guys.”
Nadal leads Federer 24-15 most recently ending a 5-match losing skid to the Swiss at the French. It’s their first meeting on grass or at Wimbledon since their 2008 epic won by Rafa.
“A great feeling to be back in the semifinals, be able to be playing at this level of tennis,” Nadal said. “Very happy the way that we managed to be in that round.
“Now to play against Roger always is a unique situation. Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. Means a lot for me and probably for him, too,” he added. “Excited about this match, excited about this opportunity to be again in that round against him. Always I say the same: of course, the opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we still here. After tomorrow we going to have another chance.”
Added Federer, “[He has] improved so much over the years on this surface. He’s playing also very different than he used to. Haven’t played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He’s serving way different. I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points,” he said. “A lot of them are saying, ‘Oh, it’s the end,’ by 2008. Similar to me in ’09. We’re still here, so it’s nice to play each other again.”
But the favorite of the tournament remains Novak Djokovic. The defending champion was in a bit of a bind with David Goffin serving with a break 4-3, 30-0 in the first set. But Serb quickly remedied the situation and reeled off 10 straight games en route to a 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 win in just under two hours.
“I’ve been playing best tennis in this tournament in the past two rounds, the fourth round and today, especially today second set and third set against Goffin, who was in-form. I felt like I managed to dismantle his game and always find the right shots. Very pleased with the performance,” Djokovic said. “This match could have gone different way. I was a break down. He was the better player for most of the first set. But I managed to turn things around.”
Goffin was trying to make his first Slam semifinal. But after an encouraging early lead, he was completely streamrolled.
“You have to play the perfect point to win it against him. Then he’s returning in your feet all the time. You know how the grass is, just in front of the line, it’s so tough, it’s really fast. He puts you under pressure all the time,” Goffin said. “Even if you play well, it’s not enough because he continues to play deep, deep, close from the line, left, right. Amazing backhand down the line, as well. He was everywhere.”
Djokovic has now won his last 12 matches at Wimbledon and 31 of his last 32 in Grand Slam play.
He’ll now be the big pick in his semifinal Friday against Roberto Bautista Agut. The 31-year-old reached his first career Slam final four easing past first-time Slam quarterfinal Guido Pella 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“It feels good to be next to them,” he said being alongside the Big 3. “They are one of the best players in the tennis era. They are such good sportsmen, good tennis players. It feels very good to be next to them and to be part of the semi-final in this tournament.
“My shots are really, really flat. I like to take the ball early, to be solid. With experience of playing each year on grass, I have really learned more about the movements on grass. I feel I can play a solid game also from baseline and I can really develop the good things I do on the court here on grass.”
Bautista Agut has won both meetings against Djokovic this year, though is down 7-3 to the Serb.
“He’s been definitely playing some very, very high-quality tennis in this tournament. He has won twice against me so far this year. That’s certainly going to give him confidence coming into the match,” Djokovic said. “Obviously playing on grass, it’s different. Semi-finals of Grand Slam, going to try to use my experience in being in these kinds of matches, get myself tactically prepared. Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”
All four guys will have a day off after less-than taxing quarterfinals. They’ll be back Friday for the semifinals.
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