LONDON: Sentimental favourite Roger Federer faces home star Andy Murray for the 24th time Friday hoping his near perfect Grand Slam grip on the Scot will steer him into a 10th Wimbledon final.
Such is the anticipation that Friday’s other semi-final between defending champion Novak Djokovic and Richard Gasquet is in danger of becoming a warm-up act.
Second seed Federer, the seven-time champion, boasts a narrow 12-11 lead in his decade-long rivalry with Murray.
But he is 4-1 to the good at the Grand Slams, including a four-set win in the 2012 Wimbledon final which delivered his 17th and most recent major title.
Federer, at 33 and hoping to become the oldest champion of the Open Era at the All England Club, also came out on top in the 2008 US Open final, the 2010 Australian Open final and last year back in Melbourne in the quarter-finals.
Murray, five years the Swiss star’s junior, won their only other clash at the Grand Slams — a five-set semi-final thriller in Australia in 2013.
Federer, runner-up to Djokovic 12 months ago, will be playing in his 10th Wimbledon semi-final and 37th at all the majors.
Murray, who became Britain’s first men’s Grand Slam title winner since Fred Perry in 1936 when he lifted the Wimbledon title in 2013, is in his sixth All England Club semi-final and 17th at the majors.
Three years on from 2012, when Federer won a seventh Wimbledon and Murray proved he could win big titles by defeating the Swiss in the Olympic final, both men agree that that summer was a crucial point.
“There was a lot on the line with Andy. I think he was going for his first Wimbledon in ’12. So obviously it was always going to be tough. He had lost some majors before that [three finals in total],” said Federer.
“Then the Olympics was just a different vibe altogether. I was a bit weathered but Andy played as good a final as you can play.”
The gold medal for Murray was followed by his first Grand Slam title just two months later in New York.
Federer reached Friday’s semi-final with the minimum of fuss, dropping serve just once to Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals which ended a streak of 116 service holds stretching back to the first round in Halle last month.
Murray’s defence of his Wimbledon title ended in the quarter-finals last year but 12 months on the 28-year-old has cruised through the draw, recording his 150th Grand Slam match win in his quarter-final stroll past Vasek Pospisil.
To get to the semi-finals, Murray hasn’t had to beat a player inside the top 20.
Federer has won their last three meetings, including a 6-1, 6-0 rout at the World Tour Finals in their most recent clash at the end of 2014.
“It was obviously embarrassing,” said Murray. “But in individual sports, it’s all about who performs on that day.”
Defending champion Djokovic will take an 11-1 record over Gasquet into his semi-final, his seventh at Wimbledon and the 27th Grand Slam semi-final of his career.
Gasquet, the 21st seed, knocked out fourth seeded French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets to reach his second Wimbledon semi-final — eight years after his first.
“Obviously an experience of being in these final stages of Wimbledon many times is going to help me to approach it in a proper way,” said Djokovic, the Australian Open champion and also Wimbledon winner in 2011.
Djokovic’s bid for a career Grand Slam was shattered in the French Open final by Wawrinka but he now finds himself in touching distance of a fourth Wimbledon final as he looks to win a ninth Grand Slam title.
Gasquet summed up his shock appearance in the semi-finals by admitting: “I’m the worst.”
“I’m proud because there are big players in the semis. But I’m the worst when you see Federer, Djokovic and Murray and me,” said Gasquet who lost to Federer in the 2007 semi-finals at Wimbledon while, in his only other last-four run at a major, he was beaten by Rafael Nadal at the 2013 US Open.
His only win over Djokovic came at the 2007 Masters Cup while he was crushed by the world number one in the fourth round of the French Open last month, winning just six games.