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Bjorkman beats Stepanek to set up Federer semi

Written by: Staff

LONDON, July 5 (Reuters) Veteran Jonas Bjorkman outlasted Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 7-6 4-6 6-7 7-6 6-4 at Wimbledon today to set up a semi-final against top seed Roger Federer.

Sweden's Bjorkman, three times a doubles champion here and at 34 the oldest competitor in the singles after Andre Agassi, used all his guile, patience and experience to overcome the 14th seed in a war of attrition lasting four hours three minutes.

''It's a dream come true,'' said a visibly emotional Bjorkman, who saved a match point in the fourth set tiebreak.

''I never believed that I could get to a semi-final. I didn't really believe that I had any semi-finals left in me.

''I just wanted to stay out there and hug everyone,'' he said.

Bjorkman is the oldest man to reach a Wimbledon semi-final since Jimmy Connors in 1987.

Bjorkman, whose only previous grand slam singles semi was at the U.S. Open in 1997, won the finely balanced first set 7-3 in the tiebreak.

The players, neither of whom possesses ferocious serves, traded breaks during the second and third sets but Stepanek came up with the winners on crucial points, taking the third set tiebreak 7-5.

Watched by girlfriend, former champion Martina Hingis, Stepanek, who had been pumping his fist at every winner, appeared to lose his nerve in the 10th game of the fourth and he was broken serving for the match.

Bjorkman saved a match point in the tiebreak when Stepanek netted a forehand then levelled the match 10-8 with another Stepanek error.

After that the wind was with Bjorkman and he grew in confidence, volleying crisply and clinching victory on his serve when a bemused Stepanek netted a return.

Reuters DH VP0047

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