WIMBLEDON, England — One by one, the men’s quarterfinal results came in, with three favorites winning quickly and efficiently in straight sets Wednesday. But as the sun sank low, Richard Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka kept pumping their graceful one-handed backhands at each other on Centre Court.
The light was fading, as was perhaps some of the players’ energy, but not their will to survive, and not the crowd’s reactions, which alternated between focused silence and enormous outbursts on virtually every point in a protracted fifth set.
Without the benefit of a tiebreaker in the deciding set, the two men played on until the 20th game, when Gasquet finally broke Wawrinka’s serve to win, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9, in the only thriller of the day. But what a thriller it was.
The final set lasted 84 high-intensity minutes, and the match took 3 hours 28 minutes in all — more than an hour longer than any of the other three quarterfinals. It was worth every minute for the fans and especially for Gasquet, 29, who matched his best showing in a Grand Slam tournament, after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2007 and the United States Open in 2013. But he said this one exceeded even those.
“It was my best victory,” he said.
On the final point, a Wawrinka backhand that sailed long, Gasquet dropped to his back in a combination of elation and relief, before quickly getting up to shake Wawrinka’s hand. The men walked off the court to a loud standing ovation from fans, who had sat in brisk, windy conditions to witness one of the best matches of the tournament.
In a semifinal Friday, Gasquet, the No. 21 seed, will play top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who has won 11 of their 12 meetings. The other semifinal will feature second-seeded Roger Federer against third-seeded Andy Murray in a rematch of the 2012 Wimbledon and Olympic finals, which the two men split on Centre Court. (Federer won at Wimbledon, and Murray at the Olympics.)
Had Wawrinka won, the men’s semifinals would have consisted of the top four seeds for the first time since 1995. Instead, Gasquet bashed his way into the party, knowing that he is now the outsider and a decided underdog.
“I’m the worst,” he said, “when you see Federer, Djokovic, Murray and me.”
Djokovic looked dominant in beating ninth-seeded Marin Cilic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in 1:48 to continue his drive to defend his title. It will be Djokovic’s sixth consecutive Wimbledon semifinal and his 27th Grand Slam semifinal over all, and he looked far better than he had in his two-day, five-set scare against Kevin Anderson.
After he eliminated Cilic, Djokovic watched the last few games of Gasquet’s victory and noted how mentally tough he had been to withstand Wawrinka’s own toughness.
“I think the biggest difference with Richard now, maybe comparing to the last couple years, is his fitness,” Djokovic said. “I think he improved a lot.”
Federer made quick work of No. 12 Gilles Simon, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2, on Court 1 to reach his 37th major semifinal, extending his record. It will also be his 10th semifinal at Wimbledon, putting him in sole possession of second place behind Jimmy Connors, who played in 11.
Federer, who has never lost in a semifinal here, will play Murray, the victor over Vasek Pospisil, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. In their 23 previous matches, Federer holds a 12-11 advantage.
He has lost only one set, and he looks as strong and capable of winning here as ever before.
“If I go out in the semis, then definitely not,” Federer said. “But if I do make it to the finals, then we can talk about that.”
Wawrinka provides a good reason for Federer’s caution. He had been playing well, too, and had not lost a set in the tournament until he dropped the first set to Gasquet. Wawrinka came back and won the next two, but on set point for Gasquet in the fourth, he double-faulted.
His serve was broken again in the eighth game of the fifth set, giving Gasquet a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve for the match. But Wawrinka broke back, winning points at the net before finally settling back at the baseline, and Gasquet hit a backhand into the net on break point.
From there it became even more compelling. The players delighted the crowd, which did the wave during one late changeover, with their sprints to the net and back, their big serves and their daring shots on the lines. Gasquet fell behind by 0-30 in the 11th game but held on to go ahead, 6-5, when Wawrinka hit a routine backhand wide, after drilling two premium backhands down the line for winners.
At 9-9, Wawrinka earned a break point with a backhand passing shot, and the match could have gone in his favor. But he returned a Gasquet serve into the net, and Gasquet held to go up by 10-9. Wawrinka then faltered. He fell behind by 0-40 on his own serve, giving Gasquet three match points. Gasquet converted on the third one when Wawrinka’s final backhand did not generate any topspin and flew long.
Afterward, Gasquet said the win had special meaning beyond his return to the Wimbledon semifinals after eight years. It was also some friendly revenge: In 2013, Wawrinka beat Gasquet, 8-6, in a fifth set in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, and Wawrinka won the French Open last month.
“You know, I’m French,” Gasquet said. “I know what it means to win that tournament. Here, it’s a quarterfinal in the biggest tournament in the world. I won, 11-9.”