Roger Federer reacts to winning the third set during his semifinal match against Novak Djokovic at the Wimbledon in London on July 6, 2012. (Reuters Photo)
LONDON: Six-time champion Roger Federer reached a record eighth Wimbledon final on Friday when he defeated world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
In the pair's 27th meeting but first on grass, Federer booked his place in his 24th Grand Slam final where he will face either Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Victory on Sunday will take the 30-year-old level with Pete Sampras's record of seven Wimbledon wins, allow him to reclaim the world number one ranking and clinch a 17th career Grand Slam crown.
Djokovic, who was bidding to reach a fifth successive Grand Slam final, had defeated Federer six times in their last seven meetings.
But Federer, playing in a record 32nd major semifinal, was not to be denied as he buried the heartache of having been knocked out in the quarterfinals in the last two years.
He also took his record of semifinal victories to eight out of eight at the All England Club.
"I'm ecstatic. I played a great match today. Novak played great in the first two sets too, but the third set was key," said Federer.
"I stepped it up then. He had a break points in the ninth game of the third set. It was a tough match."
Federer said he was delighted to be back in the final, having lost in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych in 2010 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last year.
"It was a shock for some people when I lost to Berdych, but not for me. They said 'How are we going to survive a Wimbledon final without you?'.
"I just went on vacation and prepared for my next tournaments."
Djokovic, 25, admitted he had been outplayed in the key moments.
"I felt my energy levels drop at the start of the fourth set. I played a couple of sloppy games and had a low percentage of first serves," said the Serb.
"It's difficult to get rhythm and control of the match in those circumstances.
"He was the better player in the important moments. I expected him to be at his top level; I expected myself to be at that level too, but I wasn't."
With Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar and pop singer Kylie Minogue watching from the Royal Box, Federer provided the early entertainment by easing to the first set in just 24 minutes.
The Swiss earned the break point he needed in the sixth game when Djokovic, who fell on the surface made slippy by the closed roof above, could only net a running backhand.
A shout from the crowd then caused Djokovic to check his service motion and Federer pounced with a low return which the Serb could only dump into the net.
Federer served up two successive aces in the ninth game to lay the foundation for wrapping up the opening set.
Djokovic, who came back from two sets to love down to beat Federer in the semifinals of the US Open last year, hit back in the second set, breaking with a razor-sharp backhand down the line for a 2-0 lead.
The match was level when the champion fired his fifth ace of the contest to take the second set.
A Djokovic double fault then gave Federer break point in the sixth game of the third which the Serb saved after a brutal, 23-shot rally.
Another fierce exchange, this time 26 shots, gave Federer a second break point but Djokovic's iron defence kept him level at 3-3.
However, Federer carved out two set points in the 10th game when Djokovic missed an easy overhead.
The champion saved the first but Federer converted the second with a leaping smash into an open court.
Federer was suddenly and comfortably on top, capitalising on a loose Djokovic service game to break for a 2-0 lead in the fourth set.
Djokovic was under siege and fought off three break points to hang on at 4-2 down.
But Federer claimed victory in the ninth game on his first match point when Djokovic netted a service return.