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Quickfire Murray, Federer on course

British hope Andy Murray and five-times champion Roger Federer charged headlong towards a Wimbledon final showdown on Wednesday while two of the game’s wiliest campaigners were conspiring to gatecrash the party.

The top seeds recorded emphatic victories on another sun-baked day on Centre Court, as Tommy Haas stunned fourth seed Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick was the last man standing in a gripping four-hour gunfight with old foe Lleyton Hewitt.

Less than 48 hours after putting his mother, girlfriend, 15 000 Centre Court fans and millions of British television viewers through the wringer with his electrifying five-set win against Stanislas Wawrinka, Murray produced a no-nonsense 7-5 6-3 6-2 win over Juan Carlos Ferrero.

While the authoritative exhibition gave Murray a place in the last four at Wimbledon for the first time, the sight of all-conquering Federer at the tail-end of a grand slam is taken for granted these days.

The world number two reached his 21st successive major semi by dousing the fireworks of Croatian ace machine Ivo Karlovic 6-3 7-5 7-6.

”Twenty one in row, it’s amazing. Means the world to me. It’s been quite a streak and I’m happy it’s still alive,” said Federer, in hot pursuit of a record 15th major.

His rivals summed up the milestone as ”ridiculous”, ”incredible”, ”almost impossible” and ”the most impressive stat we’ll see in tennis”. Federer’s win may not have raised many eyebrows, but Haas’s 7-5 7-6 4-6 6-3 victory over Djokovic certainly provided the biggest shock of the men’s tournament.

At 31, Haas was the oldest man in the last eight but he buzzed around Court One and stung Djokovic with a string of winners to reach the last four at Wimbledon for the first time.

He now faces Federer, the man he came within five points of beating at the French Open last month.

”There is not much this guy cannot do,” Haas said. ”I am going to try and go out there and see if I can annoy him a little bit and go from there.”

On a day when Federer, Roddick, Hewitt, Djokovic and Ferrero — who between them own 19 grand slam titles — were also out to claim the last four spots, it was Murray who was again grabbing most of the attention.

So desperate were some fans to see Murray end Britain’s 73-year wait for a men’s singles champion, they joined the queue to buy tickets for the quarter-final action within minutes of the Scot’s captivating late-night win over Wawrinka.

Murray’s mother, Judy, described watching her son’s tussle against Wawrinka as ”a cross between seasickness and having a heart attack” and the third seed made sure there was no need to call in a doctor on Wednesday.

”If I’d had another five setter, it’s tough to recover. But I was only on for about an hour and a half … today so it’s not going to take anything out of me physically. I should be a 100% for the next match,” said Murray, who will next face Roddick. In 101 unflustered minutes, he tossed out Spanish wildcard Fererro and is now primed to take on the tougher challenges that lie ahead.

None of those will be bigger than Federer should the two meet in Sunday’s final.

The imperious Swiss has come a long way from the teenager who stepped on to Centre Court for the first time in 2001 to face Pete Sampras.

Intimidating surroundings
So intimidated was Federer by the surroundings, his hands went cold, his pulse raced and his head was spinning. It was an experience that seemed to hit Karlovic as soon as he walked out for his first grand slam quarter-final.

Until Wednesday, Karlovic had not been broken once in any of 79 service games at this year’s tournament and had sent down an eye-watering 137 aces. Such stats would strike fear into most players, but Federer is no ordinary opponent and it took him just 11 minutes to blunt the 2,08m tall player’s key weapon.

A blink-and-miss service return cut the Croatian down to size as Federer broke for a 3-1 lead and the 22nd seed’s day began to unravel.

Watched by Titanic actress Kate Winslet from the Royal Box, Federer produced a slew of forehand, backhand and volley winners to sink Karlovic and extend his record to 9-1 over the Croatian.

When quizzed if anyone could halt Federer, Karlovic said simply: ”This year, honestly, no.”

Renewing a rivalry that is now into its ninth year, Roddick bombarded the 28-year-old Hewitt with 43 aces but it still took him almost four hours to shake off the dogged Australian with a 6-3 6-7 7-6 4-6 6-4 victory.

The American is now hoping to break 60-million hearts when he faces Murray.

Realising that he may struggle to get any support from a crowd crying out for a home-grown champion, Roddick grinned: ”I’m just gonna pretend when they say ‘C’mon Andy’, they mean me.” — Reuters

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