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Reaching a century of Wimbledon wins is so special: Federer

Century man: Roger Federer hails the crowd after beating Kei Nishikori for his 100th Wimbledon win, and he will now face Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals
Century man: Roger Federer hails the crowd after beating Kei Nishikori for his 100th Wimbledon win, and he will now face Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals

By Robert Jones

Roger Federer said bringing up a century of Wimbledon victories was "special" as he booked a tantalising semi-final with Rafael Nadal.

The 37-year-old shook off a nervy start to beat Kei Nishikori 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-4 in the quarter-final on Centre Court.

He is the first man to reach 100 wins at the All England Club and is in his 13th semi-final.

Federer is chasing a ninth Wimbledon title, but if he is going to do that he will more than likely have to beat Nadal and then Novak Djokovic.

The last-four meeting with Nadal will be the 40th instalment of one of tennis' great rivalries and their first here since the epic 2008 final.

Federer won his first match at SW19 as a 19-year-old in 2001, beating Belgian Christophe Rochus, and never expected to bring his ton up.

"It's special," he admitted. "It's been a lot of years I've been coming here. That's given me the opportunity to win a lot naturally.

"It's nice, because if I look back at the 100 that have happened, some were so incredibly cool.

"Today again was a big match going into the semis, facing Rafa. A hundred wins here at Wimbledon. Who would have thought? I didn't, for sure."

A lot has changed since Federer and Nadal produced one of the most memorable finals of Wimbledon's history and the Swiss is looking forward to renewing the rivalry.

"He has improved so much over the years on this surface," Federer said. "He's playing also very different than he used to.

"We haven't played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He's serving way different.

"I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he's serving, how much faster he finishes points.

"It's impressive to see how sort of healthy he's stayed. A lot of them are saying, 'Oh, it's the end', by 2008. Similar to me in 2009. We're still here. So it's nice to play each other again."

A possible upset had looked on the cards after Nishikori came out firing and took the first set, but while being one of the most consistent players in the men's game he is still having problems cracking the top three at the biggest events.

This was the fifth successive Grand Slam that he has lost to either Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, and he was unable to cope with the former after going in front.

It is the semi-final that everyone wanted and Nadal did his bit by beating Sam Querrey.

The third seed's 7-5 6-2 6-2 win was not straightforward but Nadal was more than good enough to continue the big three's domination by following Federer and Djokovic into the last four.

This is the first time since 2007 that the trio have all made the semi-finals here together, while before it happened at last month's French Open it had not happened at any Grand Slam for seven years.

Nadal said: "First of all, it is a great feeling to be back in the semi-finals, to be able to be playing at this level of tennis is great news. I'm very happy with the way that we managed to be in that round.

"Playing against Roger always is a unique situation. I am excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years."

The classy trio have now reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam twice in a row, and the All England Club will finally get a reprise of arguably the greatest match of all time, when Nadal defeated Federer over five sets in that epic final 11 years ago.

Nadal won another title in 2010 but had spent several years struggling with his knees on grass until 2018, when he also made the last four and was agonisingly close to beating eventual champion Djokovic.

He has looked superb this fortnight, his only dropped set coming in the second-round blockbuster against Nick Kyrgios.

Nadal began in the same vein here, leaping into the air when he broke the Querrey serve in the third game.

The big-serving American has dropped down the rankings to 65th, partly because of injury, but has history at Wimbledon having ended Djokovic's winning Slam run three years ago and then reached his only Grand Slam semi-final in 2017.

He had also won his most recent match against Nadal, in Acapulco two years ago, and dug in well to fight back.

Nadal did not drop a point on serve until he double-faulted leading 4-3 30-0, but suddenly things became complicated.

He saved a break point in that game but was then unable to take any of three set points in the next, and a fourth also went begging before Querrey (left) broke back for 5-5.

Nadal knew that these were dangerous moments and he then took advantage of a dip in Querrey's level on serve to break again immediately before saving three break points to win the set, two with aces.

Nadal played with more freedom after that and, after breaking early in the second set, the break points he saved in the sixth game proved to be the last major hurdle.

Querrey served 22 aces but won only 10 of 36 points where he missed his first serve, while Nadal's final tally of 43 winners and 12 unforced errors told of a job well done.

Next up, Federer.

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