WIMBLEDON, England — Top seed Novak Djokovic needed all five sets to win his quarterfinal match, while seven-time champion Roger Federer advanced in four and defending titlist Andy Murray was sent packing by rising Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov in straights Wednesday at Wimbledon.
The former champion and 2013 runner-up Djokovic trailed two-sets-to-one against 26th-seeded Croat Marin Cilic before turning things around for a 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-2 decision on the No. 1 Court.
The French Open runner-up Djokovic will meet Dimitrov in Friday’s semifinals at the All England Club. It will mark the Serbian star’s sixth final-four appearance at Wimbledon, where he titled in 2011 and lost to Murray in last year’s final.
Djokovic snuck past Cilic in 3 hours, 38 minutes with the help seven service breaks and six double faults by his Croatian counterpart. The Serb moved on despite striking 10 fewer winners (42-32) than Cilic, who had 16 more unforced errors (48-32) on Day 9.
“I played a very bad game, with a couple of bad errors in the second set and the momentum changed for him to get back into the match,” Djokovic said. “He found his rhythm on serve, but I allowed him to step in. It was frustrating for me.”
The 6-foot-6 Cilic played in his fourth career major quarterfinal (1-3) and his first one since the 2012 U.S. Open.
The 27-year-old Djokovic is a six-time Grand Slam champion who has appeared in 11 of the last 15 major finals. He would replace Rafael Nadal atop the men’s rankings with a title this weekend.
Meanwhile, the 11th-seeded Dimitrov leveled the third-seeded Murray 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 and the fourth-seeded former No. 1 great Federer overcame Australian Open champ and fifth-seeded fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4 on the famed Centre Court.
Dimitrov’s serve was just too tough to deal with on Day 9, as the Bulgarian popped 10 aces and was broken only once en route to a convincing victory over Murray. The gifted star used plenty of variety, with topspin, volleys and a beautiful one-handed backhand to advance.
The 27-year-old two-time Grand Slam winner Murray succumbed in 1 hour, 40 minutes by tallying five double faults and striking 19 more unforced errors (37-18) than his Bulgarian counterpart.
“He played better tennis than me for the entire match,” Murray said.
Murray had won his last 17 matches at the All England Club, as he captured an Olympic gold medal here in 2012 and gave Britain its first male Wimbledon singles champion in 77 years last year. He was also a Wimbledon runner-up in 2012 and had reached at least the semis here the previous five years.
The 23-year-old Dimitrov, once nicknamed “Baby Fed,” will now appear in his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal. He was a quarterfinalist at this year’s Aussie Open.
“I’m excited and happy I went through in straight sets,” Dimitrov said. “It’s never easy to play Andy, especially in front of his home crowd. I was pretty fortunate today.
“As soon as we started warming up, I sensed his game wasn’t at his highest level and I was pretty confident and playing good tennis. The first set helped me get into a good rhythm. The second set tiebreak was a key moment for me. Coming into the third set, I knew I had a lot of things under control.
“I was pretty steady during the whole match and came out the winner. I have two more matches to play hopefully. I’m trying to stay on course and prepare for the next one.”
Dimitrov captured his first-ever grass-court title at London’s Queen’s Club three weeks ago and is an unblemished 9-0 on grass this year.
Federer, meanwhile, improved to 14-2 lifetime against his good friend Wawrinka after dropping the first set on Wednesday. The mighty Federer righted the ship by winning the second-set tiebreak and would assume control from there.
The Swiss icon moved on in 2 hours, 33 minutes with 10 aces and two breaks against Wawrinka, who settled for only one break against the all-time great.
Wawrinka was playing in his first-ever Wimbledon quarterfinal and slowed by some physical issues over the last three sets.
The 17-time Grand Slam king Federer is now 72-8 at Wimbledon, which includes a 2008 runner-up finish in addition to his seven championships. He’ll now appear in his ninth Wimbledon semifinal and 35th career major semi.
The 32-year-old Federer’s next opponent will be 6-foot-5 eighth-seeded Canadian slugger Milos Raonic, who came from behind to best fellow young gun, 19-year-old Aussie Nick Kyrgios, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
Raonic advanced with a resounding ace on his fourth match point after 2 hours, 22 minutes of big-hitting tennis. The Canadian swatted 38 aces, while Kyrgios settled for 15, and Raonic broke four times, compared to only one break for the promising Aussie.
“It’s great to have that kind of a win,” Raonic said.
The upstart wild card Kyrgios stunned the French Open king Nadal here on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old Montenegro-born Raonic will now appear in his first-ever Grand Slam semi in his 15th major appearance. He reached the quarters at the French Open last month.
Prior to this year, Raonic lost in the second round three straight years at the AEC. He’s now the first Canadian to reach the Wimbledon semis since Robert Powell in 1908.
“I think I was in a bit of a zone out there,” Kyrgios told BBC television. “It hasn’t sunk in what just played out out there. I played extraordinary tennis. I was struggling a bit on return, but I worked my way into it. I served at a really good level and I’m really happy.
“You’ve got to believe you can win the match from the start and I did. I’m playing unbelievable tennis on the grass. He hit extraordinary shots, but he’s always going to bring that.”