London — Roger Federer racked up his 100th match win at Wimbledon yesterday as he reached his 13th semi-final at the All England Club and a possible duel with old rival Rafael Nadal.
Eight-time champion Federer recovered from losing the opening set to defeat Japan’s Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to book his place in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the 45th time.
The 37-year-old is also the oldest man to make the last-four of a major since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.
Federer will now face Nadal at Wimbledon for the first time since their epic 2008 final should the two-time champion Spaniard defeat Sam Querrey in his quarter-final.
“We have a lot of information on Rafa and so does he about us. I know people always hype it up in a big way,” said Federer.
“They did that again in Paris this year (when Nadal won their semi-final in straight sets). I’d love to play against him here at Wimbledon.
“But I go about it like every other match.”
Federer and Nadal have met 39 times in their careers but just three times at Wimbledon.
The Swiss star won their first two encounters in the 2006 and 2007 finals before Nadal famously triumphed in 2008 in a five-set epic which is widely regarded as the greatest Slam final ever played.
Federer said he was unaware that he had become the first player ever to win 100 matches at the same Slam.
“A fan told me congratulations on your hundredth win and I thought, oh yes, you’re right!”
Nishikori, bidding to become the first Japanese man to reach the semi-finals since Jiro Satoh in 1933, broke Federer in the first game on Centre Court.
It was enough for the 29-year-old to pocket the first set.
However, 20-time Grand Slam title winner Federer roared back, levelling the quarter-final with breaks in the second and sixth games of a 22-minute second set.
It was more of the same in the third as Federer found his range with a break for 4-3 before taking the set on a fourth set point.
Nishikori visibly wilted, saving two break points in the fifth game of the fourth set before fatally cracking in the ninth.
Federer hit 12 aces and 55 winners in a commanding display.
“It was difficult. The beginning was brutal. Kei came out and was smashing return winners,” said Federer.
“I had to definitely make some adjustments and stay with him. It was really important for me to get the lead in the second set and protect it.
“Usually Kei is a great rhythm player. I just think at the end I served really good. It was a good serving performance today against a great return player.”
Wimbledon results on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):
Serena Williams vs Barbora Strycova
Meanwhile, American superstar Serena Williams is tantalisingly close to equalling Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slam titles, but it’s far from a certainty given her shaky displays so far at Wimbledon.
The 37-year-old seven-time champion had to draw on all her strength — physical and mental — to get past unseeded compatriot Alison Riske in the last eight and faces another grass court loving opponent in Barbora Strycova in today’s semi-finals.
The 33-year-old Czech veteran — the oldest player to play in a woman’s semi-final for the first time — has found the thought of retirement a spur for playing some of her finest tennis and says she will step onto Centre Court “without any fear”.
The other semi-final pits two seeds against each other, seventh seed and former world number one Simona Halep against eighth seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
It says a lot about the turbulence of women’s tennis that Williams is making her 12th semi-final appearance while of the other three only Halep has gone this far before, and that was back in 2014.
Williams is the colossus that still bestrides women’s tennis, but there are chinks in her armour as have been exposed both at Wimbledon and in her last two Grand Slam finals.
Outplayed by Angelique Kerber in last year’s Wimbledon final and then a spectacular meltdown in the US Open defeat by Naomi Osaka gives Strycova genuine hope of an upset.
Not that the diminutive Czech will require any as her bubbly character oozes optimism and her form guide is as good as any of the semi-finalists having ousted four seeds on her way to the semi-final.
Williams’s clay court campaign was affected by a knee injury but has accrued invaluable extra game time by playing the mixed doubles with another former world number one, Andy Murray.
“This is the first time since Australia (she reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open) that I actually felt, like, good,” said Williams.
“It’s been a really, really long year for me already, and hard year, because I’m usually not typically injured.
“I don’t know where I am. I do know I feel good.”
However, she has still looked vulnerable and Strycova’s speed round the court and array of shots will pay dividends if she reproduces the leaden-footed performance she put up against Riske.
“She’s good on the grass,” Williams said of an opponent she has defeated three times without dropping a set, including the first round at Wimbledon seven years ago.
“She knows what to do. She has a good all-around game. She’s incredibly tricky. It’s definitely not easy.
“But it’s something I’m definitely geared up for.”
Strycova for her part described Williams as a great champion and amazing athlete but if that indicated she was intimidated think again.
“I don’t have fear,”
“I don’t have such a power like Serena, but I have other weapons.
“I will try to use them as much as I can. I will enjoy.
“I have really at this point nothing to lose.” — AFP.