Wimbledon, England (Sports Network) - Wimbledon champion Roger Federer outlasted former U.S. Open titlist Juan Martin del Potro in an epic showdown, while Wimbledon runner-up Andy Murray upset former top-ranked star Novak Djokovic in Friday's other semifinal at the London Olympic Games. Federer and Murray will battle in Sunday's gold medal match at the storied All England Club.
The world No. 1 Federer won a war of attrition against the eighth-seeded Argentine del Potro, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 19-17, while the third-seeded heavy British crowd favorite Murray doused the second-seeded Australian Open and U.S. Open titlist Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 on the grass at the famed Centre Court.
The Swiss great Federer needed 4 hours, 26 minutes in the longest best-of- three match in the Open Era to stave off del Potro, who stunned Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open finale. The third set alone took 2 hours, 43 minutes to complete on Friday.
"I was very tense at certain times," Federer said. "I was seeing myself as a loser many times during the match."
The previous longest men's three-set singles match was in a semifinal in Madrid in 2009, in which Rafael Nadal defeated Djokovic in 4 hours, 3 minutes.
"It was an emotional hug we shared at the net," Federer added. "Emotionally I'm extremely drained. I guess I'll feel it tomorrow...I was very, very touched at the end."
Del Potro probably played as well as he could on Friday, while Federer fought himself, as evidenced by an uncharacteristic 41 unforced errors. The super Swiss converted on only 2-of-13 break-point chances in the marathon affair.
But Federer was able to bail himself out with a brilliant service game on Day 7.
He secured only his second break of the match to grab an 18-17 lead in the third set when del Potro netted a backhand, giving the Swiss his first match point of the day. Federer then netted a backhand volley to bring things back to deuce, but moments later, on his second match point, the Swiss legend advanced when the towering Argentine put one final backhand into the mesh.
"I felt for him in a big way," Federer said, "because I've been there as well."
Federer notched his first break of the day to take a short-lived 10-9 lead in the final set, but del Potro stunned the Swiss by breaking right back with only his second break of the match.
The sweet-swinging 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer out-aced del Potro 24-11.
Federer is now 13-2 lifetime against del Potro, including wins in their last seven matchups. The Swiss icon is a perfect 6-0 versus the 6-foot-6 South American this year.
"It's not an easy situation. Someone always has to win these matches, and today it was his turn," said a dejected del Potro.
The amazing Federer, who captured a men's-record-tying seventh Wimbledon title in this London suburb just last month, needs an Olympic singles title to complete a coveted career Golden Slam.
Meanwhile, the Dunblane, Scotland native Murray outdueled his good friend and fellow 25-year-old Djokovic in exactly two hours, as the Brit secured two huge breaks, while his Serbian counterpart was unable to notch a break in a disappointing setback. Djokovic went 0-for-4 on his break-point chances.
A determined Murray, who broke Djokovic to end the quality bout, converted on his first match point at 6-5, 40-love in the second set when Djokovic was unable to connect on a shot that was drilled at his feet.
Federer and Murray have split 16 career matches, but the Swiss has won the last three. Federer won their lone career matchup on grass at the All England Club four weeks ago.
The 30-year-old Federer will seek career title number 76 on Sunday. He's 5-1 in his 2012 finals, including his first major title in 2 1/2 years when he ran the table here at the All England Club last month.
Murray will appear in his 35th career final, seeking a 23rd title and first- ever Olympic gold medal. He's 1-3 in his 2012 finals, including a loss to Federer in the Wimbledon finale here last month.
Federer captured a gold medal in men's doubles at the 2008 Beijing Games, while Murray has guaranteed Britain its first Olympic men's tennis medal in 100 years, as he will exit Sunday's tilt with gold or silver.
The 2008 Beijing bronze medalist Djokovic and del Potro will play for bronze on Sunday.
08/03 16:22:59 ET