Roger Federer advanced to his record eighth Wimbledon final on Friday, defeating world top-ranked Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to keep alive his quest for a seventh title and a return to No. 1 in the rankings.
He'll play the winner of the other semifinal match between Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Sunday's final.
The all-time leader in Grand Slam victories is back in a Wimbledon final for the first time since 2009. He used power and precision on his serve to keep Djokovic off balance and score one of the biggest victories of his career. One month shy of 31, Federer was in retro form. With a win on Sunday, he'll put his all-time Grand Slam record further out of reach and ascend to No. 1, tying him with Pete Sampras for most weeks in the top spot of the ranking.
Djokovic was uncharacteristically off, a byproduct of both Federer's deft movement on grass and some inconsistency on his groundstrokes. There were whispers that he may be suffering from a cold. He looked like it. Gone was the usual high-energy performance to which we've grown accustomed.
Federer ended points quickly on his serve and rarely had to fight off Djokovic break opportunities. He was playing quickly between points too. The first two sets took just 54 minutes. That speed appeared to throw off Djokovic's rhythm. Losing may throw off more than that.
One month ago, Djokovic was one victory away from winning four straight Grand Slams. Now he's in danger of losing his spot atop the ATP rankings. He seemed to realize it. After he was broken in the third set, Djokovic turned sullen. He had famously come back twice before in Grand Slams against Federer, but his body language was similar to last year's historic French Open loss rather than his U.S. Open miracle.
Federer hasn't played in a Grand Slam final since losing to Rafael Nadal in last year's French Open. He hasn't won a major since the 2010 Australian Open. At that point, he had played in 18 of the previous 19 Slam finals. Since then he's been in one of the past nine. A victory on Centre Court on Sunday -- the site of his greatest triumphs as a professional tennis player -- will largely erase the memory of those last Grand Slam years. Federer won't ever return to his past dominance. But as he showed on Friday, he's still capable of showing extended flashes.