Novak Djokovic was bidding to take himself within two wins of defending his Wimbledon title today with the knowledge the other seven remaining men – and one in particular – are out to stop him.
The Serbian is the clear favourite to back up last year’s memorable triumph with what would be a fifth grand slam trophy, but lurking just below him in the draw is six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.
The Swiss will be competing in his 33rd straight grand slam quarter-final when he faces Mikhail Youzhny on Centre Court, as he goes in search of a 17th major.
Such consistency is just one of the reasons Federer is hailed by many as the greatest player of all time, and despite being one of his great rivals, Djokovic has no qualms about praising him.
“It’s an incredible achievement from his side,” Djokovic said of the third seed’s last-eight sequence.
“He’s been the most successful tennis player; in major tournaments especially. He’s won 16 tournaments and he’s still coming back for more.
“He’s 30 years old now, but he’s still hungry to be the number one in the world. He’s definitely showing why he’s one of the best players ever.”
Assuming Federer does get the better of Youzhny for what would be a 14th time without defeat, Djokovic can lay on a mouthwatering last-four meeting between the two by overcoming Germany’s Florian Mayer, who was a surprise but comfortable winner of Richard Gasquet yesterday.
Also victorious yesterday was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has a Court One date with one of the more unheralded players on tour in Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber ended Brian Baker’s dream run.
Fifth seed Tsonga saw off Mardy Fish over four sets and then declared himself the favourite for today’s match.
“Philipp has never reached the semi-finals, so of course he will play hard,” Tsonga said of the 28-year-old, who he has beaten on five of their six meetings.
“I expect to have a very, very tough match. Maybe you will say I am the favourite because I have played him many times now. So I am the favourite. I just have to play my game.”
The remaining quarter-final match pits Great Britain’s Andy Murray against David Ferrer.
Murray returned to Court One yesterday to wrap up business with Marin Cilic in straight sets, while Ferrer, normally a clay-court specialist, was impressive in seeing off Juan Martin del Potro on Centre.
Ferrer recently beat Murray at the French Open, and has tried to turn the heat up on him ahead of their latest grand slam meeting.
“Maybe he has more pressure than me because he plays at home with your people,” he said.
“I played him four weeks ago on a clay court and now I will play him on a grass court.
“I will have to play my best tennis to beat him.”