WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — For Roger Federer, it’s Wimbledon Final No. 8.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion beat last year’s winner Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 today under a closed roof on Centre Court to reach a record eighth final at the All England Club and is one victory from equaling Pete Sampras’ record of seven titles.
“I have one more match to go. I’m aware of that,” said the 30-year-old Federer, who is 6-1 in Wimbledon finals. “Still, it’s always nice beating someone like Novak, who has done so well here last year, the last couple years.”
By defeating either Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Sunday’s final, Federer would also take over the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic and equal Sampras’ record of 286 weeks as the top-ranked player.
Murray and Tsonga were playing in the other semifinal on Centre Court. Neither has won a Grand Slam title; Federer is aiming for his 17th in his 24th major final.
“There’s obviously a lot on the line for me in terms of winning here, the all-time Grand Slam record, world No. 1,” Federer said. “I’m also going into that match with some pressure, but I’m excited about it. That’s what I play for.”
Both Federer and Djokovic went for winners on almost every point. But it was Federer who got the key points when they mattered in the third set.
“It’s hard to fire bullets the whole time, so you try to also find some range. If he tees off first, it’s hard to defend obviously,” said Federer, who is now 1-0 against Djokovic on grass. “It’s just not as easy to take that many balls out and come up with amazing shots time and time again. That’s why I kept on attacking.”
At 4-4, Djokovic had his chance with only his third break point of the match. Federer held with three service winners.
Moments later, while serving to stay in the set — and, essentially, the match— Djokovic gifted Federer a pair of break points by blasting an overhead long with much of the court open. He saved one, but Federer’s overhead smash on the second gave the Swiss great the third set, and put him on the way to the final.
“(I) had unfortunately a bad service game on 5-4, and obviously he uses his opportunities when they’re presented,” said Djokovic, who had reached the last four major finals. “So you have to be always consistent. I wasn’t.”
The win improved Federer’s semifinal record at the All England Club to 8-0. His only loss in the final came in 2008, when Rafael Nadal beat him 9-7 in the fifth set.
“There’s a lot on the line for me. I’m not denying that,” Federer said of Sunday’s final. “I have a lot of pressure, as well. I’m looking forward to that. That’s what I work hard for.
“So it’s a big match for me and I hope I can keep my nerves. I’m sure I can. Then hopefully win the match. But we’ll see about that.”
Federer earned the only break of the first set to take the lead, and Djokovic returned the favor in the second set to even the score.
The third set turned out to be the decisive one, and Djokovic fought to stay in it right from the start.
After holding easily, Federer earned a break point when Djokovic sent a forehand long. Although the top-ranked Serb saved it, and eventually held to 1-1, it was the beginning of the end.
The next three games went quickly and on serve, but Federer then earned a pair of break points in the sixth game. Djokovic again saved them, the first after a 24-stroke rally that ended with Federer’s forehand going wide.
“He was the better player. In the important moments he was aggressive, hitting from both sides,” Djokovic said. “Obviously that’s what you expect when you play against Roger at the final four of a Grand Slam. I knew that.”