Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wimbledon Men's Semis: What to Expect

Novak Djokovic vs. Richard Gasquet

Gasquet hasn't had much success against any of the "Big Four", but Djokovic has been a particularly bad matchup for the Frenchman.  He's 1-11 against the world number one in his career, and most of their matches haven't been close.  Gasquet may be flashy and fun to watch, but Djokovic is simply too steady for Gasquet to gain any traction in their matches.  Grass theoretically gives Gasquet his best chance to win, as it makes it tougher for Djokovic to play defense and rewards creative shotmaking.  However, it's hard to imagine Gasquet can play at a high enough level in a three out of five set match to actually pull the upset.  Unlike Wawrinka who can trouble Djokovic with his powerful shots off both sides, Gasquet doesn't possess a strong enough forehand to consistently get Djokovic on defense.

Gasquet may be in better shape than he used to be, but he's coming off a grueling 11-9 five set win over Wawrinka in the quarters.  As if he wasn't a big enough underdog already, the fact that Djokovic is the fresher of the two doesn't even seem fair.  Gasquet needs to start strong and find a way to put some pressure on Djokovic- to at least make Djokovic think there's a chance he could lose.  If Djokovic wins the first set, it's simply hard to see the match even being competitive.  Hopefully Gasquet isn't happy just to have made the semis, but it probably won't matter either way.  Look for Djokovic to win by the score of 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray:

This is widely expected to be the more competitive of the two semis, as Federer and Murray are clearly the second and third best players in the world in some order (Federer is 2 in the official rankings, Murray is 2 in the year end race).  Both are in extremely good form heading in, and a meeting in the semis was largely inevitable.  They each won their grass court tune-ups leading into Wimbledon, so neither has lost a match on grass this year.

Federer knows he has to dictate play and take control of the points early on.  He'll try to attack Murray's second serve and finish points at net when it makes sense to do so.  While he's certainly capable of hanging with Murray in long baseline rallies, he realizes his best chance to win isn't by out grinding Murray from the back of the court.  Murray will try to be the steadier of the two and break Federer down with his defense and consistency, but he'll need to be aggressive when the opportunities present themselves.  If he's simply content to hang back and play defense the entire match, an in-form Federer may not let him off the hook.

While there are good reasons for picking both players to win, Murray gets the slight edge here.  As good as Federer has looked heading in, many of his recent losses in slams have come when people least expect it.  If Federer is off his game even the slightest bit, Murray's defense will make his day extremely difficult.  It hasn't gotten that much attention, but Murray hasn't even lost a tennis match to anyone besides Djokovic since February (not counting a withdrawal to Goffin).  It will definitely be interesting to watch, and could even be a classic, but Murray is the pick: 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.      

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