WIMBLEDON, England – It took nine days of play, but the excitement at Wimbledon finally arrived when the two top seeds were taken the five-set distance in men’s quarterfinal matches Wednesday.
Top seed and defending champion Roger Federer, technically ranked No. 2 in the world, didn’t survive his enthralling 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 encounter against eighth-seeded Kevin Anderson on Court 1. The loss denies Federer a ninth Wimbledon trophy and 21st Grand Slam victory.
Many hours later over on Centre Court, second-seed Rafael Nadal, the No. 1 player in the world, had better fortune. He came through a thrilling and athletic 7-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 outing against fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in a 4-hour, 48-minute match that neither player deserved to lose.
Nadal claimed the final point with a high backhand volley, which found del Potro landing face down on the ground in an attempt to go after the shot. Match won, Nadal climbed over the net to embrace del Potro as he got up and then stopped packing his gear bag to applaud along with the crowd as his opponent left the court.
“A very emotional match and great quality of tennis, especially fifth set,” said Nadal in a BBC interview. “I’m very sorry for Juan Martin, he’s an amazing competitor. I’m very happy. It’s a very important achievement for me to be back in the semifinals here. It’s a day to be happy.”
Nadal is not a novice when it comes to success at Wimbledon,
The Spaniard’s won the title here twice (2008 and ’10) and was in three additional finals. This year, however, marks the first time he’s reached the Wimbledon semifinals since he journeyed to the final in 2011. On that occasion, Nadal was defeated by Novak Djokovic, his semifinal opponent Friday.
Indeed, all the attention of the day was on Nadal and Federer, but there were two other semifinalists to also be determined.
The 12th-seeded Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion, moved into the semifinals with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over 24th-seeded Kei Nishikori. After a few years of struggling with injury and mindset, Djokovic appears to be back in great form and ready to reclaim his position as a Grand Slam contender.
Charged with the duty of trying to bring the men’s Wimbledon trophy home to America for the first time since Pete Sampras won his seventh in 2000 is first-time Grand Slam semifinalist John Isner.
The ninth-seeded Isner captured a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7) 6-4, 6-3 win over 13th-seeded Milos Raonic to advance to the semifinals against Anderson.
Isner’s quarterfinal win improved his record over Raonic to 4-1. Interestingly, they’ve played 13 sets against each other and nine of those sets have been decided in a tiebreaker, including the two Wednesday.
“It’s pure elation right now,” Isner said. “Very happy to be in this position in the semifinals. Mentally and physically I feel in a good spot and feel like I can keep doing damage here.”