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Tennis: Roger Federer returns to Wimbledon semis, will face Djokovic

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, July 4 2012 11:43 p.m. MDT

Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a return to Mikhail Youzhny of Russia during a quarterfinals match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, England, Wednesday July 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England — After curling in a 102 mph ace to grab a two-set lead a mere 56 minutes into his Wimbledon quarterfinal Wednesday, Roger Federer casually pulled an extra tennis ball from his pocket and strolled to sit in his changeover chair for a sip to drink.

No fist pump. No yell of excitement. No energized jog to the sideline.

There still was work to be done; nothing to be taken for granted. Motivated by the bitter memory of quarterfinal losses at the All England Club the past two years, including a wasted two-set edge in 2011, six-time Wimbledon champion Federer bullied 26th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to reach his record 32nd career Grand Slam semifinal.

"Feels great being back in the semis. … Haven't been here in the last couple years," the third-seeded Federer said. "So this is nice, to be back to a place where I've been so many times before."

He's two wins away from a seventh Wimbledon championship, which would equal a mark set by William Renshaw in the 1880s — back when the defending champion received a bye directly into the final — and tied by Pete Sampras in 2000.

Nothing worked for Youzhny, including a kidding plea for help from eight-time major champion Andre Agassi, who was seated next to his wife, Steffi Graf, in the front row of the Royal Box, near Prince William and his wife, Kate.

"I know I'm playing really well," Federer said. "I am aware things are going to get complicated in the next match."

Sure are.

That's because he'll face a familiar foe Friday: No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, who didn't have too much trouble while beating No. 31 Florian Mayer of Germany 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

This will be the sixth semifinal in the past eight Grand Slam tournaments, and 27th meeting overall, for Federer and Djokovic, and their first at Wimbledon.

Federer leads 14-12, but Djokovic won six of their last seven matches, including at the French Open a month ago.

"There's no secrets with those guys. They know how to play each other," said Federer's coach, Paul Annacone. "So it's really going to be who plays the bigger points better."

The other men's semifinal will be No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain against No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

Neither has won a Grand Slam title or been to a Wimbledon final.

Cue "Murray Mania," as it's known around these parts. He is trying to become the first British man to earn the trophy at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936; the last to even make it to the title match was Bunny Austin in 1938.

He was one point from facing a two-set deficit before coming back to eliminate No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (4) to get to the semifinals for the fourth year in a row. Murray lost at that stage to Andy Roddick in 2009, then to Rafael Nadal in 2010 and 2011 — and No. 2 Nadal's stunning exit in the second round last week ratcheted up expectations this would be Murray's year.

Wimbledon glance

Stat of the Day: 6-1 — Djokovic's record in his last seven matches against Federer. They meet in the semifinals Friday.

Quote of the Day: "Subconsciously, I'm probably extremely stressed out right now, but I try not to feel it." — Murray, after reaching his fourth consecutive Wimbledon semifinal. No British man has reached the final since 1938.

On Court Thursday: No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. No. 8 Angelique Kerber, and No. 2 Victoria Azarenka vs. No. 6 Serena Williams in the women's semifinals.

On TV: ESPN, 6 a.m.

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