The stage is set – Roger Federer will on Sunday seek to win a record eighth Wimbledon title against the man who beat him in last year’s final, Novak Djokovic.
The Swiss second seed ensured the world’s top two ranked players will face off on Center Court after ruthlessly ending the hopes of home hero Andy Murray in Friday’s second semifinal.
The 33-year-old showed age is no obstacle when you still have the talent and the passion to succeed, as he triumphed 7-5 7-5 6-4 to reach his 10th Wimbledon final on the hallowed grass courts of the All England Club.
“It’s definitely one of the best matches I’ve played in my career,” Federer said. “It’s an amazing feeling when you come back from the match and everybody’s so happy for you – even like in the Royal Box when I was walking back, there was applause all the way to the locker room.
“I just feel that people are very happy for me, and at the same time I’m very pleased how well I’m playing. I need to keep it up for one more match to really make it the perfect couple of weeks.”
Murray beat Federer in the 2012 Olympic final and then won Wimbledon the following year, but the British star fell short in the crucial moments as he lost in the last four for the second successive grand slam.
Federer broke Murray’s serve in the final game of all three sets, despite the Scot’s heroics in briefly saving the second following a titanic 10th game that went to seven deuces.
“He served fantastic, apart from the first game where I had the chance there,” Murray said. “I didn’t really have any opportunities. That puts pressure on you. The pressure builds throughout the set.”
Defending champion Djokovic earlier marched into his fourth Wimbledon final in five years, beating Richard Gasquet in straight sets.
The world No. 1 triumphed 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-4 to reach his 17th grand slam final.
He said his rematch with Federer – who came back from two sets down in last year’s final to force a decider – will be “probably the biggest challenge I can have.”
“This is where he loves to play. This is where he plays his best tennis, I think. It’s his court,” said Djokovic, who will seek to join his coach Boris Becker on three Wimbledon titles.
“It was a very important match for me to win last year because I’ve lost quite a few grand slam finals. To win that match in five sets against Roger on grass was definitely something that gave me a lot of confidence.”
Federer, meanwhile, said he doesn’t think about last year’s final.
“I just remember it was unbelievably thrilling. The crowd really got into it,” he said. “It’s great to play Novak anywhere these days, because he’s had unbelievable success.
“The last few years he’s been unbelievably dominant, especially on the hard courts, then he improved on the grass. On the clay, he’s one of the best, if not the best.
“He’s become very match tough. He always shows up. It’s tough to beat him. He’s been good for the game.”
Gasquet last reached the semis in southwest London back in 2007, when the Frenchman also went down in three sets – that time against Federer.
Djokovic also lost in the last four that year – to Rafael Nadal – but his career has since taken off, while this is Gasquet’s best showing since a semifinal appearance at the 2013 U.S. Open.
Djokovic is seeking his ninth grand slam overall, having failed to complete his collection at last month’s French Open.
At 28, the Serbian is just under a year younger than Gasquet but his big-match experience is vastly greater – as he showed Friday against the 21st seed.
Gasquet took a set off the Serbian when he lost their pre-Wimbledon exhibition match at the Boodles event, but he was unable to repeat the precision he showed in defeating French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
He fought back after losing the opening two games, and from 2-2 the opening set went with serve to a tie-break that Djokovic dominated.
Djokovic again went 2-0 up in the second set, which ultimately hinged on the 2013 Wimbledon runner-up saving two break-points in the fourth game.
He twice required massage on his left shoulder, which he said he’d woken up with.
“Just received some changeover treatment – it’s nothing major that concerns me for the next match,” Djokovic said.
The shoulder problem didn’t stop him serving out the set for a 2-0 lead and then breaking Gasquet in the third game of the third set.
Gasquet saved two match points in the ninth game, but Djokovic then showed his superior firepower by serving out to love.