London: Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Mark Philippoussis of Australia will meet in Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s final after producing spectacular victories in the semi-finals Friday.
Federer became the first Swiss man to reach a Grand Slam final by destroying the bookmakers’ favourite — American fifth seed Andy Roddick — 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-3 in a bewitching performance of pure class on Centre Court.
Earlier, the unseeded Philippoussis, whose career was in doubt two years ago as he recovered from a series of knee operations, blasted French 13th seed Sebastien Grosjean off the same court by the same score (see picture on S4).
It was the first time since 1982 that both men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon had ended in three-set victories.
“It’s incredible,” said Federer, whose best effort at a Grand Slam was reaching the Wimbledon and French Open quarters in 2001.“Right now it’s tough to understand what has been happening.”
The 21-year-old fourth seed showed why he is hailed as the brightest young talent in the game with some outstanding all-court tennis that left Roddick smiling in disbelief and earned the Swiss a standing ovation.
The 20-year-old American earned a set point in the first-set tie-break but squandered it and Federer made him pay the maximum price.
Playing better tennis even than the memorable display he produced two years ago to end Pete Sampras’ 31-game unbeaten streak at Wimbledon, the elegant Swiss completely neutralised Roddick’s power game with craft and touch of the highest order.
The last Swiss player to win a Grand Slam event was the now-retired Martina Hingis, at the 1999 Australian Open women’s singles. Philippoussis’ victory was all about power as he destroyed Grosjean in the first match on Centre Court.
The 1998 US Open finalist crashed down 11 aces to take his tournament tally to 164 and unleashed a series of destructive forehand groundstrokes to sweep aside the 13th seed.
Victory was a sweet moment for Philippoussis, who was confined to a wheelchair after he underwent three operations on his left knee in the space of 14 months between January 2000 and March 2001.
“God, it’s weird. It feels like I was in a wheelchair yesterday but then it feels like I’ve been away for six years,” said the 26-year-old. “It’s very tough. I’ve been through a lot.”
His victory means an Australian will appear in the Wimbledon men’s final for the fourth year in a row, after Pat Rafter in 2000 and 2001 and Lleyton Hewitt last year.
Grosjean was reduced to a cowering shadow of the player who outclassed Tim Henman in the quarter finals Thursday.
After surviving two consecutive five-set matches, an ecstatic Philippoussis erased the hopes of Grosjean with a forehand volley on his second match point and held his arms aloft in victory before turning to acknowledge his father Nick in the players’ box. “I don’t think Seb played his best tennis, I thought I took advantage of that,” said Philippoussis.
Having served 153 aces on his way to the semi-finals, Philippoussis had been expected to set alight an overcast Centre Court with his fierce deliveries from the beginning. But knowing that it had taken him seven attempts to get to the last four of his favourite tournament, the world No. 48 took a cautious approach at the start.
With the first set safely tucked away, Philippoussis hit cruise control and broke Grosjean in the first game of the second before claiming the set when the world No. 14 sailed a forehand wide.
Grosjean, 25, finally earned his first break point in the seventh game of the third but predictably Philippoussis unleashed an ace to save it.
With his morale and resolute crumbling fast, Grosjean gifted the Australian the break with a double fault for a 5-3 lead and effectively booked a flight back to his Florida home.
Later, Kim Clijsters of Belgium and Japan's Ai Sugiyama denied 46-year-old Martina Navratilova a chance of a 20th Wimbledon title, beating the veteran and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the women's doubles quarter finals.