Former world number one Safin has made a mockery of his lowly ranking of 75 to storm into his first All England Club semi-final at the ninth attempt, and Federer knows the two-time grand slam champion is no pushover.
Calling Safin’s current ranking “ridiculous”, Federer added: “He’s finally showing again what he can do. It’s just quite surprising he’s doing it here at Wimbledon, because he used to dislike playing on this surface.”
Safin said: “Throughout the week I’ve had tough matches and pressure. I think I’ve been playing great tennis and very close to my best tennis. But just a little bit more would be great.”
However the smart money remains on a third consecutive final between Federer and Rafael Nadal, who bludgeoned Andy Murray to last-eight defeat and starts an unbackable favourite in his semi-final clash.
Said Nadal: “You can improve the serve. You can improve everything. If Federer can improve, I can improve.
“Last year was close. Only one more point and I probably would have had the trophy in my home. It was disappointing to have another plate.
“I don’t know if this year I’m going to have more chances to win the title. I have to play well if I want to win this tournament.”
Meanwhile, Rainer Schuettler held his nerve to progress into a semi-final against Nadal thanks to an epic victory over Arnaud Clement of France.
Resuming at 1-1 after bad light brought a halt to proceedings on Wednesday, the veteran pair were straight back into the groove, trading breaks in three more marathon sets.
Clement incredibly saved six successive set points after falling 6-0 down in the third-set tie-breaker before losing it with a double fault, but he came back to claim the fourth.
With a further two rain breaks delaying things even further, Schuettler finally claimed the fifth set at the third attempt with a 6-3 5-7 7-6 (8/6) 6-7 (7-9) 8-6 win in five hours and 12 minutes.