WIMBLEDON, England – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have a common nemesis when it comes to Grand Slam finals, repeatedly finding themselves playing Rafael Nadal.
Their own rivalry gets less attention since it has largely taken place in semifinals of the major tournaments. They'll go at it again at Wimbledon on Friday — their ninth meeting in the last four of a Grand Slam since 2008 — knowing that Nadal won't be waiting in the final for the winner.
Federer and Djokovic easily set up another highly anticipated matchup Wednesday as the six-time champion wrapped up a dominating 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Mikhail Youzhny of Russia just a few minutes before the top-ranked Serb finished off a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Florian Mayer on Court 1.
It will be the 27th meeting between the two, but the first at Wimbledon.
"It is our first grass-court match. We don't know quite what to expect," said Federer, who leads their head-to-head series 14-12. "I feel it's a bit of an even ground."
It should certainly be more evenly matched than their quarterfinals.
Playing in front of Prince William and his wife, Kate, in the Royal Box, Federer looked every bit the 16-time Grand Slam winner against Youzhny, a player he has now beaten 14 times in as many meetings.
At one point, with the frustrated Russian running out of ideas of how to stop the onslaught, Youzhny looked up in despair toward the Royal Box to jokingly ask Andre Agassi — who was also sitting in the front row — for advice. Not even Agassi could help him, though, and Federer wrapped up the win in 1 hour, 32 minutes.
"It was pretty funny," Federer said. "Mikhail is a great guy."
Djokovic didn't need much longer than Federer to beat Mayer despite getting off to a shaky start, trailing by a break in the first set. He broke right back and held his serve the rest of the way to set up another meeting with Federer.
"Roger has been on the top of the men's game for so long," Djokovic said. "This is where he won six titles. He definitely wants to prove himself and to everybody else that he can win it once again."
With the second-ranked Nadal having been eliminated in the second round, the Swiss player's chances would seem to be good if he can get past Djokovic. Andy Murray of Britain and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga meet in the other semifinal, with each vying to reach his first Wimbledon final.
Murray rallied from a set and a break down to beat No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (4), while Tsonga ousted first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (6), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
As always at this point in the tournament, "Murray Mania" is setting in at Wimbledon.
Murray is in the semifinals for the fourth straight year, giving him one more chance of becoming the first British man since 1938 to reach to the final. The last British man to win the title was Fred Perry in 1936. And with Nadal out of the way, the expectations on Murray are higher than ever.
"Subconsciously I'm probably extremely stressed out right now, but I try not to feel it," Murray said. "If you think too much about it and you read the newspapers and you watch the stuff on TV that's said about you, it would become far too much. But if you shield yourself from it all and get into your own little bubble, only listen to the people that are around you, then it's something you can deal with."
Murray looked to be in serious trouble against Ferrer but broke the Spaniard when he served for the second set at 5-4, and then saved a set point in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum.
Next up is Tsonga, who knows a thing or two about playing under pressure as the top "home" player at the French Open. Although Tsonga said the level of hysteria doesn't compare, since there are more elite French players around.
"Here for Andy it's difficult because he's alone," Tsonga said. "In France it's OK. We have many players and that's fine, but here for him it's really difficult because every eyes are on him and it's tough for him."