For German football, a semi-final is normally a minimum requirement; losing at that stage in the European Championship was a cause of national mourning. Post-Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, however, the country's tennis players have had to settle for lowering their sights, which has made this year's Wimbledon success all the more enjoyable. On the day that two German women met on Centre Court to contest a place in the last four, two unheralded men, Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber, made it all the way to the last eight in defiance of their lowly seeding.
Mayer, the world No 29 from Bayreuth, produced his own little festival of tennis in seeing off the 18th seed Richard Gasquet by the handsome margin of 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. "I think it's good for German tennis that me and Kohlschreiber could finally break through in a Grand Slam to reach the quarters, not only the girls just like always," he said later.
Already up by a set and 2-1 when the match was suspended on Monday night, Mayer came out much the sharper yesterday, breaking in the fourth and sixth games for 5-1, then serving out for a 2-0 lead. Caught cold – possibly in every sense – Gasquet responded by taking the third set but was outplayed again in the fourth, when Mayer's backhand was the dominant stroke.
Until Monday's first set, Gasquet was the only man in the draw not to have lost one and having beaten Mayer in their last three meetings he had reason to be believe he would be meeting Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final. Now Mayer, who last reached that stage in 2004, has the dubious reward of taking on the top seed, who has been imperious so far. "I think I can play everything, so I will maybe try to irritate him a little bit," he said. "You never know in tennis. Everything is possible. Today I played a perfect match. He was the favourite and I played with less pressure. Eight years ago I was here in the quarters so it's a wonderful dream for me."
Kohlschreiber, the 27th seed, is a solid competitor who has been playing the role of Bambi-killer here. On Saturday he quietly dispatched Rafael Nadal's conqueror Lukas Rodol with minimum fuss and yesterday he did the same to Brian Baker, the American qualifier who needed five different operations in six years, barely played during that period, but refused to give up and returned so successfully last summer that he has shot from a world ranking of 458 to what will now be the top 80.
Kohlschreiber beat him 6-1, 7-6, 6-3 without dropping serve once, helped by the American playing a poor tie-break. Unlike Mayer, he wants to feature in the Olympics and expects to have that confirmed today, but he echoed his compatriot's pride in what the German contingent have achieved here: "It's really great for all of us. Normally the women are more in the press. So we're very happy that we say at least we come closer to them. Maybe they pushed us in the past [when] they had such great success. Now we're very happy we have two [men] players in the quarter-finals. I think it's a long time that it ever happened." Not since Mayer's last appearance in fact, when he was joined by Alexander Popp.
The formidable figure of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No 6, now bars Kohlschreiber's way after the Frenchman beat Mardy Fish 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, one of his serves reaching 138mph.