Roger Federer. (Getty Images Sport)
Andy Murray. (Getty Images Sport)
Wimbledon, England (Sports Network) - The great Roger Federer displayed his grass-court prowess once again by dethroning defending champion Novak Djokovic, while Andy Murray held off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to give Great Britain its first male Wimbledon finalist in 74 years.
The third-seeded Federer and No. 4 seed Murray will decide the 2012 men's Wimbledon champ on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Federer will appear in a men's-record eighth Wimbledon final, seeking a record-tying seventh championship, while Murray is the first British man in the final here since Henry "Bunny" Austin in 1938.
Murray is trying to give the Brits their first male Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry nailed down a third title 76 years ago, in 1936.
Murray was asked by the BBC how he felt after his big win.
"A bit of relief," Murray said. "Excitement."
The former world No. 1 Federer drove out the reigning top-ranked star Djokovic in four sets 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 under the roof in the first semifinal on Centre Court at the All England Club, as rain fell early on Day 11, prompting officials to close the translucent covering over tennis' most-famous stage. Murray then held off a fifth-seeded Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 with the roof open and the sun shining on Centre.
Behind an impeccable serve, Federer had an easy time of it against Djokovic in the first set, which he took control of with a break in the sixth game. He lost the first two points of the game, but then won four in a row and took a 4-2 lead when Djokovic fired a backhand into the net. Federer finished the first set with an easy hold at love.
Djokovic, however, bounced back quickly. He broke Federer in the second game of the second set and held the rest of the way, closing it out with an ace for a love service game of his own.
The pivotal third set, however, was the turning point, and Federer prevailed to stun the champ.
The sixth game of the third stanza was the game of the match, full of long, splendid rallies, showing why these two men have enjoyed so much success on the ATP World Tour.
Djokovic wound up holding serve in that game, which featured a brilliant 26- shot point at one point.
But four games later, a vintage Federer got the key break of the match by capping another high-quality rally with an overhead smash winner for a 6-4 set win.
The super Swiss could see the finish line from there.
The fourth set also went to Federer, as he broke Djokovic again for a 2-0 lead and never looked back. The set stayed on serve, and Federer closed it out in the ninth game of the stanza by converting on his first match point when a beaten Djokovic netted a forehand return. The Serb could manage only one break of serve all day, compared to three key ones for the masterful winner.
Djokovic had trouble with his footing all match long and didn't appear to be his usual high-energy self from the outset.
An ultra-clean Federer advanced in 2 hours, 19 minutes, swatting 12 aces and committing zero double faults. He wound up with only 10 unforced errors, compared to 21 for the loser from Serbia.
"I was able to play some fantastic tennis today," Federer said. "I hope I can play a good match on Sunday."
Oddly enough, this marked the first-ever meeting between Djokovic and Federer on grass.
The six-time champion Federer, who is now 8-0 in his career Wimbledon semifinals, can regain the No. 1 ranking with a big title on Sunday.
The super Swiss will appear in a men's-record 24th Grand Slam final, looking to add to his record 16 titles.
"This is what you want to be playing for -- the Wimbledon trophy," Federer said. "I've got a tough task ahead of me."
Djokovic and Federer met for a 27th time and the Swiss icon now leads their all-time series, 15-12. Djokovic had won six of their last seven meetings.
Federer is now 6-5 in their career Grand Slam encounters, including 1-0 at Wimbledon.
The amazing Federer appeared in a record 32nd Grand Slam semifinal, as he passed Jimmy Connors for that distinction on Friday. And only Connors (84) and Boris Becker (71) have won more matches than Federer (65) on the hallowed lawns in this London suburb.
The Swiss legend, who reached seven straight Wimbledon finals from 2003-09, is still seeking his first Grand Slam title since the 2010 Australian Open. In addition to his six titles here, Federer was the 2008 Wimbledon runner-up to Rafael Nadal.
"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."
The 25-year-old Djokovic, who had been an astounding 32-1 over his last five majors and 44-2 over his last seven Grand Slams, reached his first-ever Wimbledon final last year and captured his first-ever title here with a victory over Nadal.
The Belgrade native, who still holds the Aussie Open and U.S. Open titles, had won four of the previous six majors.
Playing in his ninth straight Grand Slam semifinal, Djokovic fell to 8-8 in his career major semis.
A top-two seed had won the last eight Wimbledon titles.
Meanwhile, Murray cruised past Tsonga in the first two sets before the Frenchman fought back in the third. Tsonga turned the tables on Murray by handling him in the third stanza much like he Brit rolled over the Frenchman in the opening frames.
And then the match heated up in a tight fourth.
Murray broke Tsonga for a 3-1 lead, only to see Tsonga break right back and then consolidate the break with a hold to level the fourth at 3-all.
Action stayed on serve over the next five games before the Brit set himself up with a break point, and much more importantly...a match point.
Murray, ahead 40-15 in the 12th game, connected for a cross-court forehand return winner to secure a berth in a final at a third Grand Slam event. Only the French Open final has eluded him to this point.
The Dunblane, Scotland native is now 1-3 in his career Wimbledon and 4-6 in his career majors semis.
Murray improved to 6-1 lifetime against Tsonga, which includes a quarterfinal victory here two years ago.
The 27-year-old former Aussie Open runner-up Tsonga appeared in his second straight Wimbledon (0-2) and fourth career Grand Slam semifinal (1-3) on Friday.
Murray needed 2 hours, 47 minutes to move on, which he did with the help of twice as many service breaks as Tsonga (4-2). Tsonga smacked 11 aces in a losing cause and had seven more winners (47-40), but he also sprayed around 30 more unforced errors (42-12).
The Basel native Federer will appear in his 106th career final, seeking a 75th title. Only Connors (109), Ivan Lendl (94) and John McEnroe (77) have won more. Lendl, who owns eight major titles but never ran the table at Wimbledon, is Murray's coach.
Federer's Wimbledon titles came from 2003-2007 and again in 2009.
The 25-year-old Murray will perform in his 34th career final, seeking a 23rd title. He's 1-2 in his 2012 finals, including a loss at a Masters event in Miami.
Murray is 0-3 in his previous Grand Slam finals and has yet to win a set in such a match. He lost to Federer in the 2010 Aussie Open final and 2008 U.S. Open finale.
The capable Murray is 8-7 lifetime against Federer, but the sublime Swiss has won their last two meetings, including a final in Dubai earlier this year. Federer has won both of their Grand Slam matchups.
Sunday's champion will pocket $1.8 million.
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