Roger Federer went where Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic could not as the Swiss eased into the Wimbledon semi-finals by beating Milos Raonic in straight sets.
Federer walked out on Centre Court after Murray’s shock defeat to Sam Querrey and then saw it announced on screen that Djokovic had retired injured from his match against Tomas Berdych.
But there were no surprises for the 18-time major champion, who kept his hopes of a record eighth Wimbledon title alive with a 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7/4) victory.
Murray’s loss and Djokovic’s withdrawal means Federer is now the overwhelming favourite to secure what would be a 19th grand slam title.
The 35-year-old will play Berdych, over whom he holds a seven-match winning streak, and joins Querrey and Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the last four.
Raonic had stunned Federer over five sets to reach the final here 12 months ago but while the Canadian has been struggling with injury this season, Federer looks somewhere close to his brilliant best.
This was his 100th match at Wimbledon, and in a tournament that was supposed to herald the return of the game’s ‘big four’, only Federer is left standing in what will be his 12th Wimbledon semi-final.
The Centre Court crowd was still digesting Murray’s injury-affected exit when the players walked out but Federer was happy to accelerate the process, unleashing two blistering backhand passes in Raonic’s opening service game.
Federer snatched a break for 3-2 with a whipping forehand winner and served out with an ace after just 31 minutes.
The second set was even more straightforward as Raonic wafted a forehand wide to concede another early break before Federer’s ripped backhand winner caught the line for 5-1. Never satisfied, he still went to change his racket.
With games in hand, Federer began to enjoy himself and some spectators even bowed in appreciation when another volley of forehands rained down on Raonic.
The third set was the closest of the three and, after an hour and 10 minutes, Raonic earned his first break point. Federer had to save four more at 4-3 but save them he did and Raonic was made to pay in the tie-break.
An ace brought up Federer’s first match point and that was all he needed as a predictable victory was confirmed on the most unpredictable of days.
Earlier, Marin Cilic rained down 33 aces as he reached the semi-finals for the first time with a five-set win over Gilles Muller.
Croatian world number six Cilic has been tipped for the title since day one by his compatriot and former coach Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 champion at the All England Club.
And he showed the tenacity that may be required to take the next step into the final as he beat Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Muller 3-6 7-6 (8/6) 7-5 5-7 6-1 on Court One.
It took three and a half hours for Cilic to fend off 34-year-old Luxembourg left-hander Muller, but the effort paid off as he teed up a surprise semi-final clash with Sam Querrey.