Praise has yet to faze Roger Federer. He speaks English, German, French and some Italian and Swedish, and in each language he's showered with adulation. He's touted as one of the greatest players ever, an all-around marvel who's unbeatable at Wimbledon.
He keeps winning despite the hype.
"It starts to brainwash you in a way," Federer said. "The more you read about it, especially about yourself, the more it makes you think.
"I used to love reading everything about me. I kind of stopped doing that. Even press conferences sometimes are tough to do on a daily basis, because you feel you're talking to a psychiatrist or something. And then you come out and you say, `I can't believe I just said that.' It's kind of difficult."
Yet Federer has managed to meet expectations so far this fortnight, easing through a difficult draw without losing a set to reach the quarterfinals. He's bidding to win a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title, and his next hurdle Wednesday is a high one: 1.95-meter (6-foot-5) Mario Ancic, the last player to beat Federer at the All England Club.
"That will be the headline," Federer said with a smile. Ancic was an 18-year-old qualifier making his Grand Slam debut when he defeated Federer in the first round in 2002. Federer hasn't lost on grass since, winning an Open-era record 45 consecutive matches on the surface. He also has won seven major titles. "It's great to have a chance again on such a big stage to play against Roger," said Ancic, seeded No. 7.
They've played three times since 2002, with Federer winning each match, most recently in straight sets in the French Open quarterfinals last month.
"For me it's a great feeling that I showed again that at the end of the tournament, I am playing with a great player," Ancic said. The winner will advance to Friday's semifinals against the winner of the match between unseeded Jonas Bjorkman and No. 14 Radek Stepanek. At 34, Bjorkman is trying to become the oldest men's semifinalist at Wimbledon since Jimmy Connors in 1987; Stepanek is trying to become the first Czech to reach the semis since Ivan Lendl in 1990.
King of clay Rafael Nadal, who has surprised even himself with the rapid improvement of his grass-court game, faces No. 22 Jarkko Nieminen in an all-lefty matchup. Both are in the quarterfinals for the first time.
No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, will play No. 18 Marcos Baghdatis, the Australian Open runner-up. Hampered by injuries this year, Hewitt will play in his 12th career Grand Slam quarterfinal but his first in 2006.
"It's always nice to get in the last eight," Hewitt said. "Sometimes you don't have to play your best tennis to get there; you've just got to try and find a way to win against certain different opponents. I've got to get better if I'm going to keep going in the tournament."
Federer's presence makes everyone else a long shot. London bookmakers list him as a 1-5 favorite for the title. With his big serve and net-rushing, Ancic might pose his toughest remaining obstacle. The Croat leads the tournament with 78 aces, double Federer's total, and he plays serve and volley, a tactic nearly defunct but especially effective on grass. Ancic has reached the net on 43 percent of his points, compared with 20 percent for Federer, 15 percent for Nadal and 11 percent for Hewitt.
"It's very easy to say, `Be aggressive, be in charge.' It's obviously harder done than said," Ancic said. "But I just try to play my game. It's serve and volley. So far I came to the quarters like that, and I don't see a reason to change."
Ancic is 9-0 this year on grass, winning a Wimbledon tuneup in the Netherlands. He's often compared to his mentor and fellow Croat, Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon as a wild card in 2001. Ancic earned his only berth in a Grand Slam semifinal here two years ago before losing to Andy Roddick.
"Obviously he's got the grass-court expertise," Federer said. "It's going to be a tough match."