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Federer, Nadal close in on dream Wimbledon finale

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Roger Federer
Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates after beating France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 in their men’s singles fourth round match on the seventh day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 9. -- AFP

LONDON — Defending champion Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal closed in on a dream Wimbledon final as the sport’s two greatest players swept into the last-eight on Monday.

Eight-time champion Federer needed just 16 minutes to win the opening set on his way to a 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 defeat of France’s Adrian Mannarino to reach his 16th All England Club quarterfinal.

World number one Nadal, the two-time champion, reached his first quarter-final at Wimbledon since 2011 — when he went on to finish runner-up — with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic.

Federer will be playing in his 53rd Grand Slam last-eight when he tackles Kevin Anderson, the eighth-seeded South African.

Top seed Federer, 36, has now won 32 consecutive sets at Wimbledon, just two behind his record set from the third round in 2005 to his title triumph in 2006.

He has also held serve for 81 successive games at the tournament, a run stretching back the first set of his semifinal win against Tomas Berdych in 2017.

“It was crucial for him to stay in the match at the beginning of the second set and then it got tougher,” said 20-time major winner Federer.

“You always tend to play better against better players and I’m happy to be back in the second week of Wimbledon.”

Federer boasts a 4-0 career record against 2017 US Open runner-up Anderson, who reached the quarter-finals for the first time with a 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 7-6 (7/4) win over France’s Gael Monfils.

Anderson is the first South African man in the Wimbledon last-eight since Wayne Ferreira in 1994.

Nadal, like Federer yet to drop a set, routed world number 93 Vesely on the eve of the Czech player’s 25th birthday.

Monday’s win took Nadal, 32, into a 35th Grand Slam quarter-final.

Next up for Nadal is either Juan Martin del Potro, the fifth seeded Argentine, or unseeded Gilles Simon of France.

Del Potro was leading 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/5), 5-7 when his tie with Simon was halted for the night due to darkness.

Novak Djokovic reached the quarterfinals for the 10th time with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

“He’s got weapons, a big serve and a big forehand,” said Djokovic of the world number 40.

“I got a lot of first serves in, made him hit the extra ball. I served well when I needed to.

“It was difficult in the last few games. It was dark so I couldn’t see the ball that well and it was very windy.”

Three-time champion Djokovic, seeded 12, will next face Japan’s 24th seed Kei Nishikori.

It will be Djokovic’s 41st appearance in a Grand Slam quarter-final and he will start favourite against Nishikori who will be in his first last-eight at the All England Club.

Former world number one Djokovic has a 13-2 winning record against the Japanese player.

Nishikori overcame a right arm injury to reach his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with a gritty 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (12/10), 6-1 win over Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis.

The 28-year-old Nishikori is the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1995.

American ninth seed John Isner also reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with a 6-4, 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/4) win over Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Isner, 33, will be playing in his first quarter-final at the majors since the 2011 US Open when he faces former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic.

Raonic fired 37 aces and 74 winners to defeat Mackenzie McDonald of the United States and reach the quarterfinals for the fourth time.

The 27-year-old Canadian, runner-up to Andy Murray in 2016, triumphed 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2.

The 13th seed won all 20 of his service games. — AFP