Roger Federer took on a familiar foe in the Wimbledon semifinals, but it was anything but easy.
Seeking his eighth Wimbledon title and 11th appearance in the finals, Federer defeated 11th-seeded Tomas Berdych 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 on Friday.
Federer, three weeks shy of turning 36, will face seventh-seed Marin Cilic, 28, of Croatia in the Wimbledon finals.
Berdych, from the Czech Republic, beat Federer in the quarterfinals of the Swiss player’s quest for a Wimbledon title in 2010 — and he challenged Federer on Friday at every turn. Federer won the first set 7-6 (4), but got off to a shaky start in the second set. He recovered in the middle, denying Berdych a break that seemed to ignite him, but Berdych didn’t go away. Federer ended up winning the second set, 7-6 (4).
Cilic is in uncharted territory at Wimbledon, but his path has led him to the men’s singles final. He outlasted American Sam Querrey in a hard-fought 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory on Centre Court at the All England Club.
In a high-quality match that featured big serves, deft volleys and drop shots and a number of powerful winners between the two 6-foot-6 players, the Croatian rallied from a break down in the final set and punctuated the victory with a ripped forehand down the line on his second match point.
Querrey took lead after a brief delay late in the opening tiebreaker. With the score 6-6, stewards entered the stands to attend to a woman who needed assistance. The break only lasted a couple of minutes, but Querrey won both points when play resumed, with Cilic missing a pair of backhands, to win a set where neither player had a break point.
Cilic finally managed the first break of serve in the second set, and then went up another break in the third. But Querrey broke back to force another tiebreaker.
In the fourth set, it was Querrey who got an early break. Cilic bounced back and then broke for the fourth time in the final game.
“After that [first tiebreaker], I was just a little bit better on the return games,” Cilic said. “I was making him [play more] on his service games.”
He finished with 25 aces and won 88 percent of the points on his first serve. Cilic also had 70 winners and only 21 unforced errors. Querrey had 46 winners and 26 unforced errors to go with 13 aces.
Cilic has never been this far, at Wimbledon at least. He won his only major title three years ago in New York, beating Federer in the semifinals and Kei Nishikori in the final. At Wimbledon, he had lost in the quarterfinals the past three years.
Querrey was bidding to become the first American to reach the men’s singles final at Wimbledon since Andy Roddick, who lost an epic five-set match to Federer in 2009. In fact, there hasn’t been an American man in a singles final in 42 of the past 43 Grand Slam events.
Cilic and Querrey had played twice before at Wimbledon, with the Croat winning in five sets in 2009 and 2012. The latter, in which Cilic won the final set 17-15, lasted more than five hours and is the second-longest men’s singles match in Wimbledon history.
Querrey advanced to the semifinals by winning three consecutive five-set matches, joining Todd Martin (1994) as the only American men to accomplish that feat at Wimbledon in the Open era.
Cilic, who improved to 5-0 lifetime against Querrey, becomes the second Croatian player, male or female, to reach multiple Grand Slam finals. He joins former coach Goran Ivanisevic, who won one title in four finals appearances at Wimbledon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.