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The renaissance of Roger Federer - and the lessons for Murray and Djokovic

Just over a year ago, injuries forced Roger Federer out of the French Open and a great career appeared close to the end. But a break from the sport has helped him to the verge of a second grand slam in 2017.

Ahead of his semifinal clash with Tomas Berdych on Friday, Federer told reporters at Wimbledon about the day in Paris when his injuries finally got the better of him at grand slam time.

"My knee is swollen," the 35-year-old said to his fitness trainer. "I don't feel ready to go. My back is funny. My knee is not well. What are we doing?"

The answer was to go home. He emerged briefly again at his favorite tournament but lost in the Wimbledon semifinals to Milos Raonic. Then the decision was made - a break that could extend his career was worth the sacrifice of missing the Rio Olympics, the US Open and the rest of the 2016 season.

Wimbledon Novak Djokovic verletzt (Reuters/M. Childs)

Novak Djokovic was forced to retire hurt from his quarterfinal

It didn't take long to establish that his judgement of his body was as sound as his judgement of the flight of a topspin lob. Rejuvenated by the break, Federer looked close to his imperious best at the Australian Open at the start of this year, brushing aside upstarts like Kei Nishikori and Stanislas Wawrinka before meeting his old nemesis, and another man who seems to have triumphed over injuries, Rafael Nadal.

The 35-year-old won his first slam since 2012 - rolling back the years with an exhibiton of the combination of grace and brutal power which made him the most successful male singles player of all time.

It was impossible not to think of the positive effects of Federer's rest period on Wednesday, as Andy Murray hobbled around the baseline on his way to defeat to Sam Querrey before Novak Djokovic retired from his own quarterfinal just hours later.

"Maybe that is a lesson learned for Andy and Novak to really take care of their bodies - take their time and get healthy, and don't play when they can't," former German player Boris Becker told British broadcaster BBC.

"Andy has got to think long-term, not worry about making the US Open - if he is moving there like he did at Wimbledon, then he won't win it anyway."

Federer faces fellow thirty-something Berdych as an overwhelming favorite. It will be the Swiss great's 12th last-four duel on the grass of SW19, while the men who looked to have surpassed him will be watching on nursing injuries.

It remains to be seen whether Murray and Djokovic will be equally willing to sacrifice ranking points and a few tournaments in favor of an Indian Summer. Whatever the result on Friday, it's a tactic that's already worked for the imperious Federer.

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