LONDON — Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will meet for the first time in 27 matches on a grass-court today as the pair of multiple Grand Slam winners take aim at the Wimbledon final.
Federer, who is looking for his seventh trophy at the All England Club, has successfully defused worries over back problems during the generally rainy fortnight, and posted a straight-set thrashing of Russian Mikhail Youzhny to set up the semifinal with Djokovic.
The Serb top seed is defending his 2011 crown and will have to be at his best against third seed Federer, who leads their series 14-12.
"It's a challenge, Roger has been on the top of the men's game for so long," said Djokovic.
"This is where he won six titles. He definitely wants to prove himself and to everybody else that he can win it once again. He's been winning very comfortably."
While the Swiss may be playing a record 32nd straight semifinal at a major, Djokovic has faith in his own game.
"I'm playing well, I believe, but we both have to play at our best in order to get a win," he said.
"I've improved on grass in last couple of years. I won the title last year, and got to another semifinal this year, so I'm feeling good about this surface, about myself on the court.
"I really have nothing to lose. I'm going to try to win."
Federer, who would displace his rival atop the ATP rankings with a trophy on Sunday, will be keen to see how the longtime rivals match up on the lawns.
"It's interesting that this is our first grass court match," the 16-time Grand Slam champion said. "I'm looking forward to it.
"I'm happy that I'm around and got further than I've the last couple of years (quarterfinals). So it's been a good tournament so far for me. I'm happy that I'm feeling good again. It gives me confidence going into a big match against Novak."
MURRAY VS TSONGSA
At the bottom of the draw, fourth seed Andy Murray again carries the hope of Britain into his semi with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Murray is bidding to become the first home player to win the men's title since Fred Perry in 1936. He has won his last four meetings with Tsonga, dating to 2009, including a Wimbledon quarterfinal two years ago.
"There's obviously pressure there, but if you think too much about it, and you read the newspapers and you watch the stuff on TV that's said about you, I think it would become far too much," Murray said.
"But if you shield yourself from it all and just get into your own little bubble, only listen to the people that are around you, then it's something you can deal with."
After decades of national disappointment, Murray is not about to make any predictions about his chances. But the man who knocked him out at the last two editions, Rafael Nadal, is not in the field after his second-round loss.
"I'm in a good position, that's for sure. Whether it's the best chance or not, I'm not sure. But I've been in this position a few times now and want to push on," he said.
Tsonga said the pressure will all be on the local.
"Here for Andy it's difficult because he's alone (Last British player). In France it's okay. We have many players and that's fine, but here for him it's really difficult because every eye is on him and it's tough for him.
"Sometimes I play against a player who has lot of support and I win. I remember at US Open I play against (American Mardy) Fish in a tight match. But it's still tennis, and you never know what's happen on court." — dpa