By Claire Lovell and Ken Ferris
Richard Gasquet sent French Open champion Stan Wawrinka flying out of Wimbledon on Wednesday, winning the battle of the slingshot backhands 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-4 11-9 to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for the second time.
Wawrinka, bidding for a rare French Open and Wimbledon double, looked out of sorts from the first set, spraying his groundstrokes uncharacteristically long and wide on a breezy Court One and failing to tame the stinging backhand of the 21st-seeded Gasquet.
The Frenchman served two double faults to gift Wawrinka the second set after which the powerful Swiss rediscovered some range and began spraying winners off both sides of the court.
He broke Gasquet’s serve in the fourth game of the third set, found his own booming serving rhythm and fearsome backhand bullet and wrapped up the set with a forehand winner.
But Gasquet, no slouch on grass after reaching the semi-finals here in 2007 and twice winning Nottingham, hung on with consistent shot-making and waited for more errors. They came at 4-5 on Wawrinka’s serve and the Swiss produced his first double fault to send the match into a fifth set.
They were the first sets Wawrinka had dropped in the tournament so far and it was a battle of nerves and scintillating tennis that took the pair deep to an 83 minute fifth set.
Gasquet had the advantage of serving first and Wawrinka saved two match points before sending his famed backhand long and bowing out.
Earlier, Novak Djokovic reached the semi-finals by winning the battle of grand slam champions against Marin Cilic with a comfortable 6-4 6-4 6-4 Centre Court victory.
Top seed Djokovic had not lost a match to the Croat and his unbeaten record never looked in danger against the U.S. Open champion who failed to master the Serb’s precise groundstrokes.
The holder made it into his 27th grand slam semi with his 50th win at Wimbledon, only the seventh man to reach that number of victories, and was surely relieved to have an easy time of it.
The Serb had to recover from two sets down in the last 16 against South African Kevin Anderson but his crisp passing shots ensured big-serving ninth seed Cilic never got a look in.
Djokovic broke in the third game of the first set, the ninth game of the second set and the seventh game of the final set to wrap up victory inside two hours on a cool London evening.