WIMBLEDON, England — Wimbledon is only one tournament, but in many minds it is the biggest, grandest stage in tennis. So let the speculation begin that cracks in the wall of dominance enjoyed by the group known as the Big Four of the men’s game may have finally appeared during Wimbledon’s second week.
On successive days on Centre Court, former champions were dismissed by younger players without a Grand Slam title to their names. After the 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios’ four-set defeat of the two-time champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round Tuesday, Grigor Dimitrov, a rising 23-year-old Bulgarian, thrashed Andy Murray, the defending champion from Britain, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Kyrgios’ remarkable run ended when he collided with the huge game of the 6-foot-5 Canadian Milos Raonic, who at 23 is also trying to break through the wall. Admittedly tired after his upset of Nadal, Kyrgios watched 39 aces sail by him during Raonic’s 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory.
Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 seed, advanced to Friday’s semifinals, but he had to rally for a 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-2 victory over 26th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia.
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And do not schedule any requiems just yet for Roger Federer, the old man of the elite quartet. About a month before his 33rd birthday, Federer booked his place in the semifinals by ousting his Swiss compatriot and good friend Stan Wawrinka, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4.
Playing for the third straight day, Wawrinka struggled physically after the first two sets, failing to find the form that earned him the Australian Open title in January, weeks before his 29th birthday. That victory was a rare interruption of Big Four rule.
One theme running through the first week of Wimbledon was the timetable for the emergence of promising new faces. When would they break through at a Grand Slam tournament after Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Federer had won 35 of the last 37 and 38 of the last 42?
Few foresaw the beating Dimitrov administered Wednesday to Murray, who had won 17 straight matches at Wimbledon.
Dimitrov said he sensed Murray’s game “was not at the highest level” as they warmed up in front of the crowd. Murray conceded that Dimitrov “was the better player from start to finish.”
“I have very good memories from that court out there. It’s a special court for me,” said Murray, who lost the 2012 Wimbledon final there, won that year’s London Olympics gold medal there, then won his historic title 12 months ago there. “I mean, you can have bad days as an athlete. You don’t win all of the time. Sometimes you just have to take it on the chin and move on.”
In the women’s quarterfinals, No. 3 Simona Halep beat 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-0, and now faces No. 13 Eugenie Bouchard, who got past No. 9 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4. Thursday’s other semifinal is 2011 champion Petra Kvitova against No. 23 Lucie Safarova. Kvitova is the only woman left who has won a major title.