- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2011

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - For the very first time in his record-breaking career, six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer couldn’t hang on to a two-set lead at a Grand Slam tournament.

The 16-time major champion, who was playing in his 29th straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, won the first two sets against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon on Wednesday, but squandered the lead and lost 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

That makes his record 178-1 in Grand Slam matches in which he led two sets to none.

“I was controlling the match. Next thing you know, he just continued serving great,” said Federer, who also lost in the quarterfinals last year. “But the chances were slim. And then again, he only needed a couple of breaks to end up bringing it home.”

Federer and Rafael Nadal have won the last eight titles at the All England Club, but only the top-seeded Spaniard _ still dealing with a left foot injury _ has a chance to extend that streak after beating Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

In Friday’s semifinals, Nadal will face fourth-seeded Andy Murray while Tsonga meets Novak Djokovic. Murray beat Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 _ the only straight-set result in the men’s quarterfinals _ while Djokovic defeated 18-year-old Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

On Thursday, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova is to play German wild card Sabine Lisicki in the women’s semifinals. Fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka will take on Petra Kvitova in the early match on Centre Court.

The 29-year-old Federer walked out onto Centre Court in the opening match Wednesday and started off playing the effortless brand of tennis that has given him more major titles than any other man.

He jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening set, breaking Tsonga at his first chance, and breezed through the rest of his service games. The second set looked similar, but neither player even held a break point.

Then things started to change.

“He had basically good return games along the way in the third, fourth, and fifth,” said Federer, who was broken once in each of those three sets. “I think especially the third set, the break I get is very unusual. He chips back a couple, they stay in. He ends up picking a couple of sides and he ends up breaking me in a way I don’t think he deserves as much.

“But, look, he hung in there.”

Tsonga’s reward for beating Federer is a semifinal match against Djokovic, who may still be the hottest player on tour.

The second-seeded Serb won 41 straight matches to start the season, including his second Australian Open title, but lost to Federer in the French Open semifinals.

Since then, Djokovic is 5-0 _ all those wins coming at Wimbledon.

“A lot will depend from our serves. I need to serve well because that’s something that he’s going to do, for sure,” Djokovic said of Tsonga, the man he beat to win the 2008 Australian Open title. “I think his game as well depends on that serve. If he starts missing first serves, then I can have some more chances in the rallies.”

On the other side of the draw, Nadal will have to defend his title against Murray and the British public, and he’ll have to do it with his injured left foot.

The 10-time Grand Slam champion hurt himself in the previous round, but a painkilling injection numbed his foot for the match against Fish on Court 1.

“My foot is not fine,” said Nadal, who didn’t appear to be hampered at all Wednesday. “But we are in quarterfinals of Wimbledon. Is an emergency, so I had to play.”

Nadal is 11-4 against Murray, including a victory in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals and in this year’s French Open semifinals.

“You get pushed more and more as the rounds go on,” said Murray, a three-time Grand Slam finalist who is trying to become the first Britain man to win the Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936.

“I’m sure in the next round, I’m going to get pushed even harder, and I’m going to have to up my game again.”

That’s exactly what Tsonga did when he needed to do it most against Federer.

“I felt so good on the court,” Tsonga said. “I was just perfect today.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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