Wimbledon men's semis preview


For the first time since 1995, the men have matched the women in sending the top three seeds through to the Wimbledon semifinals.

The pretournament favorites, top seed Roger Federer and No. 2 seed Andy Roddick, are just a win away from a much-anticipated Sunday showdown in the finals, but former champion Lleyton Hewitt and dark horse Thomas Johansson will try to play the spoilers' role and have their say Friday. The final four features the last three year-end No. 1s and four former Grand Slam champions, a first here since 1993.

Lleyton Hewitt vs. Roger Federer
• It's been a long time since Hewitt has earned a win over Federer. Since Hewitt's 2003 Davis Cup semifinal win in 2003 that ballooned his advantage over the Swiss to 8-2, Hewitt has lost seven straight to Federer, winning just two sets total. Federer even dished out five bagels last year to Hewitt, who rarely had dropped sets in such fashion.

Unfortunately for the fiery Hewitt, things don't figure to improve much Friday against the two-time Wimbledon champ. Federer, 23, comes in having won 34 straight matches on grass and his last 19 here at Wimbledon. Further, Federer has already dropped two semifinals this year, and the prospect of losing a third would be devastating.

Hewitt might bring a bit more of his fighting spirit Friday as he bids for a second Wimbledon crown. At the start of the tournament, the 24-year-old was irked at Wimbledon organizers for dropping his seeding from No. 2 to No. 3, which led to this matchup, a rare semifinal meeting between the top two ranked players in the world. If we know anything about Hewitt, it's that he loves a good challenge. On Friday, he gets just that.

Andy Roddick vs. Thomas Johansson
• Despite two five-set struggles, Roddick's quest for a first Wimbledon title has been on track thus far this fortnight. Roddick, 22, has been coming to the net much more than in the past, and his powerful serve and big forehand have been on form. And Roddick's cushy draw continues Friday as he gets No. 12 seed Thomas Johansson, the 30-year-old Swede.

Johansson, the oldest among the remaining four, is enjoying his best Wimbledon ever, having lost just one set en route to his first Wimbledon semifinal – the first for a Swede since Stefan Edberg in 1993. In his last two matches, Johansson took care of big-serving Max Mirnyi and the tricky David Nalbandian (both in impressive straight-set fashion).

Adding to Johansson's credentials is that he's been to this stage of a Slam before. In 2002, Johansson improbably captured the Australian Open, stunning the heavily favored Marat Safin in four sets to take the title.

Unfortunately for Johansson, he injured his left knee, which kept him off the tour for the entire 2003 season. Now, fully healthy, Johansson is back playing top-notch tennis and ready to shake his "one-Slam wonder" tag.

Roddick and Johansson have met twice before, and Roddick won both – at Wimbledon in 2001 (a four-setter in the second round with Johansson coming off back-to-back grass titles) and in Bangkok last year in straight sets.

Miki Singh is a tennis researcher for ESPN.