Wimbeldon, England — The "Ooohs" and "Aaahs" from an appreciative crowd began during warmups, when Roger Federer volleyed one ball through his legs. His artistry grew more impressive once play began for real.
Facing the last man to defeat him on grass, three-time Wimbledon champion Federer quickly turned the Centre Court rematch into a mismatch, beating No. 7-seeded Mario Ancic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals.
If the score was routine, Federer's play was anything but. Some shots were so sublime that even the Swiss star was taken aback.
"I definitely had a period where it was so good, it was just incredible," said Federer, bidding to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win Wimbledon without dropping a set. "You're not afraid to try anything, you're not afraid to hit the ball hard, you're not afraid to go for aces."
Federer will be joined in Friday's semifinals by two far-less-expected participants. Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden eliminated No. 14 Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4 to become, at 34, the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since Jimmy Connors in 1987. And No. 18 Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus beat 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
The last member of the final four won't be decided until today: No. 2 Rafael Nadal's quarterfinal against No. 22 Jarkko Nieminen of Finland was postponed after two rain delays.
It might be natural for Federer to underestimate his next opponent: Bjorkman is ranked 59th, is into only the second Grand Slam singles semifinal of his career and is better known for his prowess in doubles.
Today's women's semifinals match No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo vs. No. 4 Maria Sharapova, and No. 2 Kim Clijsters vs. No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne.