x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Stakes high for men's semi-final showdown at Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have much to lose at the business end.

Roger Federer is aiming for his seventh Wimbledon men's singles title. Clive Rose / Getty Images
Roger Federer is aiming for his seventh Wimbledon men's singles title. Clive Rose / Getty Images

Roger Federer sets out in pursuit of perfection against Novak Djokovic tomorrow and believes anything less will see him punished by the defending champion.

Only at Wimbledon could a semi-final between the six-time winner and the current title holder be overshadowed, but that will inevitably be the case given the swell of Andy Murray-mania ahead of the home hope's match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

For the tournament's global audience, however, there can be little doubting which is the pick of the semi-finals.

Federer can reclaim the world No 1 ranking from Djokovic by claiming his seventh Wimbledon title. Another triumph would take him level with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw, who reigned in the 1880s, in Wimbledon successes, and the ranking move would mean him matching Sampras's record of 286 weeks at the top.

He has no illusions, however, of the obstacle posed by Djokovic. "You have to prepare yourself well in every department," Federer said. "Only a perfect performance will be enough to beat Djokovic."

The Serb knows that even though the last of Federer's 16 grand slams came almost two-and-a-half years ago, in Australia, he is hungry for a 17th and the rankings record.

"When you're playing at this stage of a grand slam against one of your biggest rivals, there are a lot of things involved, a lot of things on the line," Djokovic said.

"It's not the first time that I'm playing to win or lose a ranking. It's not something that I think about too much. I really just want to focus on the match."

Just as Murray starts as favourite against Tsonga, so does Djokovic heading into the match with Federer. The Swiss has beaten Djokovic in 14 of their 26 meetings, but Djokovic has prevailed in six of the past seven, and the past three.

"Obviously, it helps that he won the last couple against me," Federer said. "It is our first grass-court match. We don't know quite what to expect. I feel it's a bit of an even ground. You would have to ask him. I feel good about the match. I'm excited."

Tsonga will face a pain barrier when he heads into the "madness" of his semi-final against Murray. Only two weeks ago, Tsonga was suffering so badly from a finger injury he sustained at Queen's Club that hitting a backhand was agonising.

"I'm still playing under anti-inflammatories and with pain but I think it's been worth it," he said.

Tsonga accepts the Centre Court crowd will largely be siding with Murray, who is bidding to become the first British men's finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938.

"It will be a totally different match against Andy," Tsonga said. "It'll be madness. Almost all the crowd will be with him. I will have nothing to lose; the pressure will be on him.

"We're at a new stage of the tournament now. I'm going to try to play with a light heart."

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