Wimbledon legend Roger Federer crashed out of the tournament in a shock quarter-final defeat, opening up the path to the title for Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
The Swiss defending champion, who had been gunning for a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon singles crown, was beaten 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 by Czech 12th seed Tomas Berdych on centre court, where Federer has ruled the roost for the best part of a decade.
Top seed Federer has not missed out on a Wimbledon final since 2002.
His downfall means Djokovic, Nadal and Murray will all feel their chances of claiming the crown have been greatly improved after they moved into the semi-finals, while big-serving Berdych also has a shot at glory.
World No.1 Nadal booked his semi-final place by coming from behind to beat Swedish sixth seed Robin Soderling 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.
Serbian third seed Djokovic, who has reached the semi-finals here just once before, beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun 6-3 6-2 6-2.
And British fourth seed Murray beat French 10th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-2 to also reach the Wimbledon semis for a second time.
The home favourite now faces 2008 Wimbledon champion Nadal in Friday’s semi-finals, while Djokovic takes on Berdych. “It was brutal for me,” Federer said.
“Every time he had a chance, he took it… When I did have chances, I played poorly.
It was just a frustrating match the way it all went. “I’m definitely struggling at the moment. “It’s not something I’m used to doing, losing in the quarter-finals, because it’s not something I’ve done in the last six years.” Federer said he was playing with a painful back and right leg.
“It’s just uncomfortable. When you can’t play freely, that’s the kind of performance you get,” he said. Federer, 28, will now drop down to world No.3 for the first time since November 2003.
Nadal recovered from losing the first set to Soderling to win their quarter-final, using a dispute with the umpire over a line call to fire himself up and turn the match around. In a re-run of the French Open final earlier this month, Nadal triumphed once again.
“I am feeling great. For me, another time in the semi-finals of this tournament is a dream,” the second seed said.
“I always try my best and I think I am playing better and better every day. In my opinion there is no one favourite right now in the tournament.”
Murray’s morale was at a low ebb coming into Wimbledon after he failed to get past the quarter-finals of any tournament since January, but the Scot has rediscovered his best form here.
He dismissed Tsonga in style, with some clever play at the net, to reach the last four for a second straight year.
With Federer out, Murray must be starting to fancy his chances of becoming Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936. “It was a really tough first couple of sets.
He was going for huge shots and I was doing a lot of defending,” Murray said.
“This was a good win and I will have to play well again in the semi-finals. “It will be a great match.
It’s always fun playing against Rafa. I look forward to it.” Taiwan’s Lu had put out three-times beaten finalist Andy Roddick to get through to the last eight — the best-ever grand slam performance by a Taiwanese player — but was no match for the in-form Djokovic.