Monday 22 January 2018

Murray and Federer march on to set up mouth-watering showdown

Roger Federer celebrates after booking his place in the semi-finals
Roger Federer celebrates after booking his place in the semi-finals

Simon Briggs

Memories of the golden Olympic summer of 2012 will be unavoidable at Wimbledon tomorrow as Andy Murray returns to Centre Court to reprise his two high-stakes meetings with Roger Federer from that year.

Both the Wimbledon and Olympic finals came down to this fascinating confrontation, which always feels like a duel at dawn.

It is Federer's lightning thrusts against Murray's parries and counter-attacks. Murray's 'thou-shalt-not-pass' grittiness against the improvisation and flair of Federer.

Federer claimed his 17th Grand Slam title - the only one he has won in the last five years - by beating Murray in that Wimbledon decider.

Murray went straight back out onto the practice court, rather than stewing over his frustration as he had after previous major finals.

Four weeks later, he was rewarded with Olympic gold as he walloped Federer on Centre Court, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

The summer of 2012 remains the only time that these two men - who lead the tour in grass-court wins - have met at Wimbledon. Up until that point, Murray went through a phase of being repeatedly stopped by Rafael Nadal.

Since then, Federer had his season of back trouble in 2013, before Murray experienced similar issues last year. But now, once again, both men are performing like artists at the peak of their careers. Their green period, you could call it.

And while Novak Djokovic remains the bookies' favourite, it feels as though Murray and Federer have taken most of the style points over the first 10 days.

Closing of the Centre Court roof for the first time this year during a daytime match helped Murray close out a solid 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 quarter-final win over unseeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil.

He also received a little assistance from umpire Pascale Maria, who hit Pospisil with a pair of time violations for slow play.

Federer advanced to his 10th Wimbledon semi-final with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Gilles Simon that put him second in the all-time rankings of last four appearances here behind Jimmy Connors.

The only thing that prevented the former champion from being back in the locker room in under 90 minutes was a couple of brief delays for passing showers.

Federer was majestic, serene, at times apparently floating across the turf.

Djokovic, meanwhile, won the battle of Grand Slam champions by downing Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his sixth straight Wimbledon semi-final.

He will now face Richard Gasquet after the Frenchman with the backhand to die for overcame French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in five gripping sets, finally emerging the victor 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9.

The fifth set lasted 83 minutes. Gasquet had the advantage of serving first and Wawrinka saved two match points before sending his famed backhand long and bowing out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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