- Howard Bryant, Senior Writer
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LONDON -- There are many words to describe the challenge of playing world No. 4 David Ferrer. Unless the opponent is one of the big three, "easy" had never been one of them.
That is until Juan Martin del Potro took care of him to reach his first Wimbledon semifinal with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win on Centre Court on Wednesday.
Simultaneously, on No. 1 Court, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic broke the will of seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych and earned his 13th straight major semifinal appearance with a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 win, keeping up his end of the dream final between him and Andy Murray, who was scheduled to play on Centre Court against Spaniard left-hander Fernando Verdasco.
Djokovic and del Potro are playing with purpose. Neither has dropped a set in the tournament, and while del Potro is playing with an injured left knee, it appears the injury focused him to play more efficiently against a difficult opponent.
The meeting sets up a rematch of the Masters 1000 semifinal at Indian Wells, where del Potro upset Djokovic in three sets. In a tournament of upsets, it also sets up a semifinal of previous major winners. Djokovic has won six Grand Slam titles, including Wimbledon in 2011. The eighth-seeded del Potro won the 2009 US Open.
"I'm just thinking about what I need to do," Djokovic said. "I have the right commitment. I've been really dedicated to go far in this tournament, and I'm playing some of the best tennis of my career on grass, even though it is not my preferred surface. I hope to keep it going."
On both courts, it was an afternoon of power and willpower. Djokovic ripped 16 aces against a lone double fault. That del Potro handled Ferrer with such ease was made more remarkable by the gruesome fall he took just five points into the match. With Ferrer serving at 15-40, del Potro raced along the right baseline and appeared to hyperextend his already heavily taped left knee. Television replays showed del Potro's knee stretching behind his body as all his weight moved forward and his ankle buckling as he crumpled to the grass. Del Potro remained down, and when he sat at his chair during his injury timeout, it appeared he was close to retiring the match.
It was a feeling that persisted during the first points after he returned as he was unable to move to his left, and it appeared Ferrer would run him laterally and grind him down. It was a narrative that never took hold. Del Potro regrouped and attacked Ferrer in a way he hadn't been able to during their meeting in the fourth round here last year, when Ferrer destroyed him 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Del Potro essentially overpowered Ferrer and, despite the injury, regained his movement. Del Potro hit through him on the serve -- 12 aces against zero double faults -- and especially on the forehand, which was evidenced by the final two points of the match.
At 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, del Potro earned a match point by ripping a crosscourt forehand past Ferrer. On match point, del Potro punched his ticket to the semifinals by ripping a running forehand winner down the line.
In short, del Potro, who is seeking his first Wimbledon title, played a nearly perfect match. He tallied 42 winners against only 11 unforced errors. Even more impressively, against Ferrer, one of the greatest returners in the game, he surrendered only two break points in the entire match, saving both. Del Potro played so clean a match that Ferrer had virtually no opportunities to change the momentum.
Ferrer did not play his best, making twice as many errors (22) as del Potro, but still a respectable figure against his 41 winners.
On No. 1 Court, it was either the legendary will of Djokovic that buried Berdych or Berdych's legendary lack thereof. The Czech, who reached the final in 2010, will leave the court haunted by his opportunities and inability to hold his lead. In the first-set tiebreaker, Berdych led 4-3 holding two serves and couldn't capitalize. He led 5-4 and lost the final three points of the set.
The second set was even worse. Berdych broke Djokovic in his first two service games and was serving 3-0 only to lose the next four games and six of the final seven to drop the set. Djokovic committed only 13 errors against 36 winners, while it was Berdych who couldn't keep his groundstrokes (31 winners, 25 unforced errors) in the court. If he was saved by his 24 aces against Bernard Tomic in his fourth-round win, Berdych was let down by his serve, double faulting four times with only six aces.
"Of course I can play well better than I played today," Berdych said. "If you give him too much, then it's a lot, so you have to play really on the limit, playing really great to have a chance to beat him. That was not my case today."
Both Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro played with purpose, and now the semis are calling.