Andy Murray rallies, wins on ace

Updated: July 5, 2012, 3:48 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- Britain's Andy Murray reached his fourth straight Wimbledon semifinal Wednesday, rallying from a set and a break down to hold off David Ferrer of Spain 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Murray broke Ferrer when he served for the second set at 5-4 and then saved a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker to seize the momentum on Centre Court. The match was suspended for about 25 minutes at 5-5 in the fourth set, and Murray once again proved stronger in the tiebreaker when play resumed. He converted his first match point with an ace.

Murray will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who reached the semis for the second straight year with a win over Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Neither has won a Grand Slam title or been to a Wimbledon final.

Cue "Murray Mania," as it's known around these parts. He is trying to become the first British man to earn the trophy at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936; the last to even make it to the title match was Bunny Austin in 1938.

"If you think too much about it, and you read the newspapers and you watch the stuff on TV that's said about you, I think it would become far too much," Murray said. "But if you kind of shield yourself from it all and kind of just get into your own little bubble, only listen to the people that are around you, then it's something you can deal with."

He was one point from facing a two-set deficit before coming back to eliminate Ferrer to get to the semifinals for the fourth year in a row. Murray lost at that stage to Andy Roddick in 2009, then to Rafael Nadal in 2010 and 2011 -- and No. 2 Nadal's stunning exit in the second round last week ratcheted up expectations this would be Murray's year.

"Subconsciously, I'm probably extremely stressed out right now," Murray said, "but I try not to feel it."

A basketball fan, he likened his situation to that of LeBron James, who recently won his first NBA championship with the Miami Heat after twice losing in the Finals.

"I've been close a lot of times and not quite made it. Just have to keep putting myself in the position, and hopefully it will click," said Murray, the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2008, and the Australian Open in 2010 and 2011. "There's a lot of people that said he would never win. ... Sometimes it takes guys a bit longer than others."

Novak Djokovic closed out his own Wimbledon win with an ace as well, then threw a fist and let loose a primal scream.

Bring on Roger Federer. They'll meet at Wimbledon for the first time Friday.

Federer earned a record 32nd Grand Slam semifinal berth and moved closer to a record-tying seventh Wimbledon title when he beat Mikhail Youzhny on Wednesday, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Minutes later on an adjacent court, defending champion Djokovic finished off Florian Mayer, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

Federer has a 14-12 edge against Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1. They've met in Grand Slam semifinals five times in the past two years, with Djokovic winning four of those matches.

They've never played each other on grass.

"A nice matchup," Federer said. "Obviously I'm aware that Novak is the defending champion and the world No. 1. That's not going to make it easy."

"It's always a pleasure playing against Roger," Djokovic said. "Obviously he's a great champion. He has been so dominant and consistent in these Grand Slams, and he's really an ultimate challenge on grass courts."

With Nadal eliminated last week from the other half of the draw, the Federer-Djokovic winner will be a big favorite Sunday against a first-time Wimbledon finalist.

Federer had been tied with Jimmy Connors for the most major semifinals. He reached the final four at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009, when he won the title for the sixth time.

"I'm just happy that I'm around farther than I've been the last couple years," Federer said.

Against the No. 26-seeded Youzhny, Federer showed no sign of the back ailment that prompted him to seek treatment during the first set of his previous match. In the second game he converted his fifth break-point chance and pulled away from there.

"My back is holding up," Federer said. "I could focus on tennis again."

The Centre Court audience included Prince William and wife Kate, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Rod Laver, all sitting in the Royal Box.

"I think it helps when royalty shows up, and other legends of the game come and see me play," Federer said. "It's inspiring."

A brief rain delay couldn't slow Federer, and neither could Youzhny, who seemed pleased at times just to win a point. Late in the first set, when the Russian hit a running scoop forehand cross-court for a winner, he raised both arms and grinned as the crowd roared.

Early in the final set, a desperate Youzhny looked up to the royal box and asked for help from Agassi, who laughed. Youzhny then double-faulted to lose the game.

"It was pretty funny," Federer said. "Mikhail is a great guy."

He's also Federer's favorite foil. Federer has won all 14 of their matches, his best record against any opponent. He has lost only three of the 35 sets they've played.

"My game maybe suits up well against his," Federer said.

No. 3-ranked Federer seeks to match the record of seven Wimbledon titles set by William Renshaw in the 1880s and tied by Pete Sampras in 2000. If he wins the title, he'll reclaim the top ranking from Djokovic and tie Sampras' record for most weeks at the top.

Djokovic, playing on Court 1, had just a little more difficulty in the quarterfinals than Federer. The Serb lost his serve for the only time in the fifth game but immediately broke back.

Serving at 4-all, he fell behind love-40 but erased all three break points, then broke to take the set and the lead for good.

Mayer, seeded 31st, did his best to stay in the match with his unorthodox style. He dug out a between-the-legs volley during one rally. A subsequent scrambling sequence required him to dive and hit a spectacular backhand volley, then rise and put away another backhand volley.

But Djokovic dominated with his aggressive play, hitting 50 winners to 14 for Mayer.

"I've been playing really well, constantly well, from the start of the tournament," Djokovic said. "And I hope to continue that way."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.