Top Rank on Line as Federer Plays Djokovic for Wimbledon Final

Even for Roger Federer, winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, today’s meeting with defending champion Novak Djokovic for a spot in the final at Wimbledon is something special.

Federer will be contesting his first semifinal at the All England Club in London in three years, and his 32nd in a Grand Slam event. The oldest semifinalist at 30, the Swiss right-hander hasn’t won a major title since the 2010 Australian Open.

Federer also is aiming to regain the top spot in the ATP World Tour rankings, where he’s one week short of tying Pete Sampras’s record of 286 weeks at No. 1. He must beat Djokovic and win Wimbledon to do it.

“It’s a big deal,” Federer, a quarterfinalist the past two years who lost his No. 1 ranking in 2010, said in a news conference. “No denying. Obviously it feels great being back in the semis.”

The winner of the match between Federer and Djokovic will play a first-time Wimbledon finalist -- Britain’s Andy Murray or France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. No British man has taken a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry won in London in 1936.

The women’s final will be played tomorrow between four-time champion Serena Williams of the U.S. and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

Ace Record

Williams served a Wimbledon-record 24 aces in beating Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) yesterday. Radwanska became the first Polish woman to reach the Wimbledon championship match in 75 years by defeating Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic knocked Rafael Nadal off the top spot a year ago when he beat the left-hander from Spain in the Wimbledon final. The right-hander from Serbia said he’s not thinking about his ranking.

“When you’re playing at this stage of a Grand Slam against one of your biggest rivals, there is a lot of things involved, a lot of things on the line,” Djokovic said after he ousted Florian Mayer of Germany in straight sets in the quarterfinals. “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.”

Grass First

Although it will be their 27th meeting, and a record 11th in one of the four majors, Federer and Djokovic have never met before on a grass court. Federer leads 14-12, losing their past three matches. Djokovic came back from match points down at the U.S. Open semifinals in 2010 and 2011, and beat Federer in straight set in the semifinals of last month’s French Open.

Federer said he’s not trying to think about winning his seventh Wimbledon championship, which would tie the record held by Sampras and William Renshaw.

“Once I get to the semis, I’m playing some of my best tennis usually,” said Federer, who beat Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals. “I’m aware that Novak is the defending champion and the world No. 1. That’s not going to make it easy to come through. That’s the focus now instead of taking it two steps at a time where I know I’m holding the trophy.”

Djokovic said to expect a close encounter.

“Very few points decide the winner,” he said. “I won two years in a row against him with match points down, so I can’t really say I’ve been winning comfortably those matches. That’s what I expect in the next one, as well. We never played on grass, so I think it’s going to be interesting for both of us to see what happens.”

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