London: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray remain on course for a Wimbledon final showdown after the top two seeds took contrasting routes into the last four on Wednesday.
Djokovic will face Juan Martin del Potro for a place in Sunday’s final as the world number one clinched his 13th consecutive Grand Slam last four spot with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-3 victory over Tomas Berdych.
The 2011 champion is yet to drop a set in his five matches at this year’s tournament and is now just two wins away from lifting the All England Club trophy for the second time.
Del Potro beat Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) after surviving a nasty fall in the opening game, which left the Argentine eighth seed needing several minutes of treatment on a left knee already heavily bandaged.
In the other half of the draw, Murray showed impressive resolve as the world number two battled back from two sets down to defeat unseeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
Murray, aiming to become the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936, will play Polish 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz for a place in the final for a second successive year.
Janowicz defeated compatriot Lukasz Kubot 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to become Poland’s first male Grand Slam semi-finalist.
A day of high drama started with Djokovic avenging his 2010 Wimbledon semi-final defeat against Berdych.
That was one of just two wins for the Czech seventh seed in their 15 meetings. And the losing streak always looked likely to continue once Djokovic took a tight first set in the tie-break on Court One.
Djokovic, a six-time Grand Slam champion, recovered from 3-0 down in the second set and surged to victory in his 17th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearance.
“It was a close match,” Djokovic said. “But I have a commitment to go far in this tournament. I am playing some of my best tennis on grass even though it’s not my preferred surface.”
Berdych added: “I can play better than I played today. If you give him too much then it’s a lot.”
On Centre Court, Del Potro, 24, was clearly struggling to move at times, but he gritted his teeth through two hours and 16 minutes of gruelling action.
It will be del Potro’s first Grand Slam semi-final appearance since his breakthrough triumph at the US Open four years ago.
Asked how close he was to pulling out, del Potro said: “Really close because I felt a lot of pain in the beginning of the match.
“I twisted my knee once again but the doctor gave me some magic pills so I could finish the match and I’m so glad to go through.”
Ferrer revealed he had been struggling with an ankle injury before the match: “I wasn’t able to warm-up properly but it was fine during the match.
“He was more focused and aggressive, served really well and deserved to win.”
Murray, beaten by Roger Federer in last year’s final, has now won his last 16 matches on grass and will appear in his fifth successive Wimbledon semi-final after bringing Centre Court to their feet in celebration of his epic comeback.
Initially Murray, supported from the royal box by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, looked a shadow of the player who swept through his first four matches without dropping a set.
Verdasco, the world number 54, took advantage to leave the partisan crowd fearing a stunning upset.
But Murray responded superbly to his first serious test of the Championships, taking the third set to earn a lifeline before holding his nerve in the tense fourth and fifth sets.
“I came through an incredibly tough match. It could have gone the other way. I found a way to get through and that’s all you need,” said Murray.
Next up for Murray is the 22-year-old Janowicz, who fired 30 aces and 58 winners to see off world number 130 Kubot before breaking down in tears.
“Really I have not many words to say right now,” Janowicz said. I’m just really happy and it doesn’t matter if I’m the first or second from Poland.”a