London: Second seed Andy Murray survived a ferocious Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fightback to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the seventh time, winning the Wednesday's second Centre Court blockbuster 7-6(10), 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1.
After Roger Federer's miraculous earlier escape act against Marin Cilic, when he recovered from two sets down to win, 12th seeded Frenchman Tsonga threatened something equally improbable as dusk settled at the All England Club.
When the maverick Frenchman blazed away, firing winners from here, there and everywhere, to take the third and fourth sets Murray was wobbling. The crowd could barely believe their eyes.
But just when the match appeared to be spiralling out of control for the agitated Scot, the 2013 champion rediscovered his early authority to dominate the decider and set up a semifinal with Czech 10th seed Tomas Berdych, who beat Lucas Pouille 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-2.
"It was a tough match. At the end of the fourth set it was really tough," Murray, who had not dropped a set to reach the quarterfinals, said in a courtside interview.
"To lose that set 6-4 was hard, but I tried to use all my energy at the start of the fifth to get myself pumped up, and the crowd, and thankfully got the break and managed to hang on."
After the memorable Federer exploits there was a danger that Murray's match against Tsonga might prove a mere footnote.
Those fears vanished in a high-quality opening set in which Murray was dragged into an epic 22-point tie-break despite forging ahead with an early break of serve.
Tsonga had lost both of his previous Wimbledon clashes with Murray and was on an eight-set losing streak against the Scot, but he showed no inferiority complex.
He ended a scintillating 20-stroke rally with a volley to move 6-4 ahead in the tie-breaker, but Murray replied with an ace and devilish service return to set up a routine pass.
Tsonga spurned a third set point when skewing a backhand wide off a Murray second serve.
He was made to pay as Murray produced a moment of magic to run down a drop shot and punch a backhand pass which the diving Tsonga netted at 10-10 -- the Scot roaring to the crowd and pumping his fist in defiance.
The second seed then claimed the opening set with a volley into an open court on his fourth set point.
Rock solid Murray was buoyant and the spirit ebbed away from Tsonga in a one-sided second set.
But the 31-year-old Frenchman roared back with some audacious attacking tennis and Briton Murray, for the first time in a tournament that had been stress-free before, looked flummoxed.
Murray, hot favourite after champion Novak Djokovic's third-round demise, lost concentration in the third set and Tsonga capitalised to extend the contest.
Murray led 4-2 in the fourth before Tsonga, winners flowing from his racket, reeled off four games in a row to send the match into a decider.
Tsonga had a break point at the start of the fifth as Murray shovelled a forehand into the net, but he slipped mid-rally and Murray snuffed out the danger.
The Briton broke in the next game and never looked back as he racked up his 100th Tour level match on grass -- second only amongst active players to seven-times champion Federer who could await in Sunday's final. Eariler, Federer put his global army of "Fed-Head" fans through the wringer for four nerve-shredding sets before he kept alive his pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title with a 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3 win over Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals.
Novak Djokovic's shock third round exit had raised hopes that this could be the week when the Swiss finally ends his four-year hunt for an 18th Grand Slam title, as the Serb had been the only man to beat him at the majors over the past year.
However, all those expectations appeared to be heading for the dustbin as Cilic stood one point away from victory -- not once, not twice, but three times in a pulsating fourth set that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
Three huge serves kept Federer alive -- just -- and he then produced the kind of form, and outrageous shots, that has made him the most successful man in tennis by stealing the tie-break 11-9.
An ace on his first match point finished off the job after three hours, 17 minutes of high drama and carried him into an 11th Wimbledon semifinal, and 40th overall in the majors.
"I knew I was in so much trouble in the third and again in the fourth," Federer said after walking off Centre Court to a standing ovation.
"It wasn't going well for me. So for me it was about staying in the match and somehow hope for his level to drop ... and maybe get a bit lucky. That's exactly what happened at 3-3, 0-40 (in the third set)," added Federer about the game where he saved three break points.
"Obviously the breaker was crazy. It was an incredible match. Marin is one of the nicest guys on the tour so I feel sorry for him, but for me the dream continues."
The win also made him the most successful player, man or woman, at the majors as he chalked up a record 307th singles win.
"I cannot believe Roger Federer won that match. How did he get out of that?" gushed American great John McEnroe.
"You've got to love the courage that he is able to find a way to do that, that is a killer loss."
He will face another big-server, Canadian Milos Raonic, for a place in Sunday's final.
Raonic produced an irresistible display of classic grasscourt tennis to overcome giant-killer Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
The influence of McEnroe, a new addition to his coaching team, was apparent as sixth-seeded Raonic charged into the net behind his booming first serves and confounded American Querrey with a succession of deft winning volleys.
So great was the 25-year-old's control of the first two sets that he lost just seven points on his serve during that period and faced no break points, in a display at times reminiscent of Pete Sampras in his heyday.
Querrey, for his part, was not able to produce the kind of scintillating form from the baseline that saw him dump world No.1 Novak Djokovic out of the tournament.
The ferociously whipped topspin forehand that had served the American so well in previous matches misfired at critical times against Raonic.
The 28th seed raised his game to finally break the Canadian's serve in the third set and take the match into a fourth. Raonic failed to reproduce the champagne tennis of the early stages, but nonetheless reasserted his dominance to close out the match and reach his second Wimbledon semifinal.Tweet
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