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The Gentlemen's Quarterfinals at Wimbledon today were a stark reminder to the top seeds that there are no clear favourites. While Roger Federer and Andy Murray had a relatively easy day coasting into the semi finals, they know they will have their hands full, come Friday. Tommy Haas and Lleyton Hewitt chased every ball, played positively and clung on tenaciously in their respective matches and provided a spectacle that will last in the memories of all those who witnessed them in action today. While Haas was able to put a stop to the Djokovic juggernaut, Hewitt fell agonisingly short of meting out the same treatment to American Andy Roddick.
The oldest player left in the Men's draw, German Tommy Haas sprang on
e of the big upsets in the tournament as he beat the no.4 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia to book a place in the final four. The German who was in terrific form coming into the Wimbledon with a win at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, now faces tournament favourite Roger Federer in what promises to be one heck of a semi-final. Haas brushed past the young Serb in confident fashion and the score line reflected his domination - 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-3. He employed the now obsolete tactic of attacking the 'net', taking Djokovic by surprise. His backhand served him really well as he conjured up a string of winners to unlock the Serb's defence time and again.
The first set was really tight as both players continued to size each other up and were cautious for most part of the early exchanges. But it was Haas, who finally took the initiative with some smart attacking play and got the coveted break of serve and eventually pocketed the first set.
The second set was eerily similar to the first as Haas again broke Djokovic's serve for a 6-5 lead. It was then that the famed Haas nerves set in and allowed Djokovic a way back. Djokovic responded and earned himself three set points in the tiebreak. Haas though had other ideas, as he completed a remarkable turnaround by winning the next five points in a row to pocket the second set. Djokovic's frustration was all too evident as he castigated himself in his native Serbian dialect.
Speaking after the match Djokovic zoned in on that tiebreak as a decisive moment, "Today I could have won the second set, I just made some incredible unforced errors."
Djokovic took the third set to his credit, but Haas didn't give in and came back all guns blazing to take the fourth set and the match. With this win, Haas entered the semi finals of Wimbledon for the first time in what has sadly been an injury prone start-stop career. At 31, he would be the least likely to pull off a win out of the four semi-finalists, but if there is one place that fairlytales have been known to come true, it is the Center Court of Wimbledon.
Roger Federer, meanwhile, tamed the Croatian ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ace machine' Ivo Karlovic without even breaking a sweat and made his way into a record 21st consecutive Grand Slam semi-final. The big serving Croat met his nemesis on the wrong day as Federer looked invincible, to say the least. Karlovic's serves which have been the scourge of many top players in this year's tournament, were treated with contempt and a bit of magic from the Swiss legend. The duration of the match was a fair indication of the manner in which Federer tamed the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“serving giant'; 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory in just an hour and 43 minutes.
Federer was right on the money in the fourth game itself as he broke the Croat's serve for the first time in the tournament. The shock and pain was there to be seen on Karlovic's face as his most potent weapon was being toyed with. And with that break Federer made sure he had the set in his kitty as Karlovic could hardly get a proper look in at the Federer serve, which may not pack court scorching velocity, but with his razor sharp accuracy, the Federer serve is still one of the best in the business. The second set saw Federer taking it easy in the initial stages and keeping the spectators enthralled with a random dose of his genius self. He finally stepped on the gas with the scores level at 5-5. Federer displayed remarkable skills and returned the incoming missile serves with some interest, leaving Karlovic open mouthed and resigned to his fate. Federer duly served out the set and was now one step closer to his favourite trophy. The third set was relatively tighter as Karlovic avoided further ignominy of getting his famed serve broken and hence, the game was now led to a tiebreak, another Karlovic bastion. Federer rose to the challenge and it was a one man show in the tiebreak as the affable Swiss cruised through it.
Speaking after the match, Roger was delighted for his generation, "To be quite honest, I'm very happy that so many (older) guys have made it through to the second week, to the quarter-final stages. I'm very happy Ferrero's come a long way again, because sometimes he gets forgotten next to all the hype in Spain with Rafa. Obviously we'll have Andy or Lleyton (going through, I like a good mix, so that it's not always just the young guys and me.
"Sure it's cool once in a while, but I still like to play the guys also who I used to play when I came up and who were my main rivals for many years. I played against Ferrero in juniors, Hewitt as well. I didn't play Roddick but we obviously met back in the day in finals (2004 & 2005)."
Speaking about his forthcoming clash with Haas, Federer said: "I've trained with him a lot, and I knew that it was just a matter of time before he started getting good results again.
"We've got closer recently, training then going for something to eat together afterwards. It's great when someone shows the determination to come back after injury.
"I'm really pleased for him - he played great in Paris (losing in the fourth round at Roland Garros to Roger after winning the first two sets) and I know the danger that I'll be facing as grass and hard court suit him better. I'd rather play Haas than Djokovic as he's someone from my generation."
In the other marquee match on the Centre Court the British 'darling' Andy Murray made short work of Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero in a lop sided affair. The veteran Spanish star was no match for Murray despite winning some of the early exchanges. After the first set - which was keenly contested - had gone to Murray, Ferrero made a spirited comeback and raced to a 3-1 lead in the second. That seemed to do him more harm than good, as Murray suddenly revived himself and generated enough momentum to win 20 of the next 21 points. With the second set in his kitty and the Spaniard literally on his knees, Murray wasted little time in taking the third set and with it the match itself. With this win Murray has now reached his first Wimbledon semi-final and has a resurgent Andy Roddick lying in store for him.
Lleyton Hewitt was at his vintage best as he almost ended Andy Roddick's SW19 sojourn. In a match of fluctuating fortunes, Roddick came out trumps at the end 6-3, 6-7(10), 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-4.
Roddick started the match in his usual cavalier fashion as he fired aces at will and took the first set with relative ease. However, Hewitt is known to be a fighter and he didn't disappoint his vast legion of fans, with a plucky display in the second set. He eventually prevailed 7-6, after enduring a rather nerve wracking tiebreak. Roddick didn't throw in the towel and was back on song soon in the third. And like the earlier set, this one too was decided by a tiebreak. But this time it was Roddick who got through, running away with the breaker to take a two sets to one lead.
The match though was hardly over as Hewitt mustered all he had left in the tank to win the fourth set, breaking the Roddick serve in the 10th game to take the match into a deciding fifth. With both players playing a shade safer, the match seemed destined for a gruelling finish. Both wasted countless break point opportunities.Roddick's backhand more of a rally-shot in the match so far, suddenly cam to life with rather alarming consistency from Hewitt's perspective. The deciding moment came with the score at 4-4 and Hewitt to serve. Roddick displayed enormous tenacity as he hung on like a leech and eventually won broke through the Australian's Great Barrier Reef. He then pulled out the heavy artillery to hold his own nerve and close out the match. Now pitted against Andy Murray, Roddick will need to play even better (if that is possible) if he is to make his third Wimbledon final appearance.
The Indian fortunes took a dip at Wimbledon as Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles - seeded 4th in the Gentlemen's Doubles - bowed out of the quarter finals losing to 9th seeds Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman in a tense and enthralling five set encounter. The eventual score in the favour of Moodie and Norman was 7-6 (9), 4-6, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4.
Thursday should to be a sumptuous affair in the Ladies' event as both the semi finals promise more than a liberal dose of action. The Russian duo of Elena Dementieva and World no.1 Dinara Safina would take court with the hope of challenging the American Williams' sisters hegemony on the tournament so far. While Dementieva locks horns with Serena, Safina would challenge a red hot Venus Williams in a bid to book a place in the final. Will the Russians be able to prevent a repeat of last year's All-Williams final ? Or will the trophy be guaranteed a Williams residential address at the end of tomorrow ? Stay tuned with our continuing coverage of the 'The Championships' to find out!
File Photograph Copyright: Gerry Weber Open (PMK)
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