Djokovic sets up first grass duel with the 'best'


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Now for a real challenge. Beaten once in 33 matches – by Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros – and dropping a single set here, Novak Djokovic will stand across the net tomorrow from a man he calls "probably the best player in history", Roger Federer. Yet as world No 1 and top seed, the Serb will start their semi-final as favourite.

In yesterday's Court One quarter-final he dismissed Germany's Florian Mayer 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. Any encouragement offered to Federer by a slow start and 20 unforced errors could be explained away, he suggested, by having to adapt from playing his previous three matches under the Centre Court roof.

There was also the strange appearance of a warm yellow thing in the sky. "I had a little trouble adjusting, you know, to the sun and to outdoor conditions because I played last three matches indoors," Djokovic said. "So it took me a bit of time to get into the rhythm."

Having boosted his confidence with an early break, and then immediately been pegged back to 3-3, Mayer came out after a rain break to take a 40-0 lead on the Djokovic serve but failed to convert. Mayer dropped his serve in the next game and with it the first set, and was outplayed in a second set lasting only 25 minutes.

"To be honest, the first set I have to win," Mayer said. "I was break up. Then it was 4-4, 0-40, easy volley and I let him come back. Then I lost my service game after 40-15. That shouldn't happen. But after the first set, he played unbelievable. He showed why he's the best player right now in the world."

Mayer is capable of the sublime and the ridiculous on successive points. That was evident in the fourth game of the second set when he won applause from Djokovic for an acrobatic winner at the net, only to drive long on the next point and drop his serve. Djokovic sealed that set with one of his seven aces and the match with another.

Of Djokovic v Federer, Mayer said: "I think it's a good chance also for Roger maybe to reach world No 1 if he can beat Novak [and win the final]. So he will be very motivated. But I think Roger also has to play on a really high level to have a chance."

Djokovic said: "Roger has great variety in his game. I think that grass courts are suiting his style of game the most, so it's going to be an interesting match."

The Serb did not mention that he has won six of their last seven meetings. Federer retains an overall lead of 14-12 but, just to add to the intrigue surrounding this semi-final, they have never met at Wimbledon – or, indeed, anywhere else on grass.