Evergreen Fed provides relief from power struggle
The millions of Roger Federer fans around the world will not be the only ones happy at the prospect of their hero playing in his 42nd Grand Slam semi-final in Wimbledon today.
The three other semi-finalists - Tomas Berdych, who will face Federer, Sam Querrey and Marin Cilic - are excellent players, but it will be left to the seven-times champion to provide respite from the relentless big-hitting that has become such a feature of the modern game.
Men's tennis has enjoyed a golden era thanks to the brilliance of the so-called 'Big Four', who have provided a rich mix of game styles and skills.
Federer's elegance and aggression, Rafael Nadal with his iron will and durability, Novak Djokovic with his all-round brilliance and Andy Murray with his counter-attacking and athleticism.
As all four head towards the twilight of their careers, however, there is a danger that the next generation of champions will not have the same widespread appeal because they are dominated by big hitters who do not have the same variety in their games.
If you had taken Federer, Djokovic and Murray out of the quarter-final line-up here, you would have been left with five physical giants whose game is all about hitting huge serves and bludgeoning massive ground strokes from the baseline: Berdych (6ft 5in), Cilic (6ft 6in), Querrey (6ft 6in), Milos Raonic (6ft 5in) and Gilles Muller (6ft 4in).
Federer (6ft 1in) may be the bookmakers' favourite to win the title here on Sunday, but the 35-year-old Swiss knows that the three other semi-finalists can knock over anyone just on the strength of their power.
"These other guys are all big hitters," Federer said. "I feel like they will have their word to say about the outcome of the matches. They've got big serves, big forehands.
"All three guys are taller and stronger than I am. I've got to figure out a different way, carve my way through the draw somehow with my slice and my spins, my consistency maybe. I'm looking forward to doing that.
"I'm much better prepared for Wimbledon this year than last year. Last year I had a hard, hard time practising through the clay-court season. The grass-court season was difficult because of the back issues I had and the knee issues. I was really lacking practice.
"This year I'm just a normal tennis player again where I can focus on tactics. I think that's the difference. I'm playing very well. I'm rested. I'm fresh. I'm confident, too. Then great things do happen. Confidence is a huge thing." (© Independent News Service)
Wimbledon men's semi-finals,
Live, BBC / eir Sport, 1.0pm