Has this been the most exciting day of tennis in 2007, or what?
After Nadal had easily routed Tomas Berdych in the opening match on Centre Court, I was starting to think, ‘this guy just might seriously challenge for the title this year’.While I was debating this issue to myself, I quickly started to be absorbed by the dogfight going on at Court No.1, where Novak Djokovic and Marcos Baghdatis were throwing everything they had at each other.
Djokovic continued where he’d left off in his match against Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round, and that was winning tiebreaks. The fourth-seeded Serb had won the first set against the Cypriot in a breaker and took the second in similar fashion, pouncing on his first set point at 10-9, after Baghdatis had wasted no less than six setpoints in the tiebreak himself.
Djokovic consequently went up an early break in the third set, and the match looked to be in the bag for the No.5. Little did he know, but Marcos Baghdatis fought back from the huge deficit and tied the score at two sets all after shortly over four hours of play. Djokovic was looking very tired out there and it appeared as if the deciding set would just be a formality for Baghdatis, who appeared to have quite some gas left in the tank.
At this point, Djokovic proved how good of a match player he is. The Roland Garros semifinalist played his heart out, until at 5-all he created the first break point of the set. It was all he needed to clinch the crucial break of serve, and finish the match 7-5 in the fifth after exactly five hours of play.
Despite his great win, Djokovic won’t be too happy looking ahead to tomorrow. He’ll face Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, after having played over nine hours in the last two days. Frankly I don’t think the Serb has any chance at all at upending Rafa, without the proper time to recover. Nadal has convincingly beaten Mikhail Youzhny after a false start, stating he played his best grass match of his career, and also hard-hitting Tomas Berdych posed no problems on the lawns for the second seed.
Djokovic told the BBC after his win that “the crowd have seen one of the best matches at Wimbledon this year for sure”. He was right, but the 20-year-old from Belgrade had no idea that there would be a lot more in store for the rest of the day.
Andy Roddick was the odds on favorite to beat the talented Richard Gasquet en route to another clash with Roger Federer at Wimbledon in the semifinals. After having comfortably won the first two sets 6-4, 6-4, and leading with a break in the third, nobody in the stands would have given his young opponent the least bit of a chance to turn the match around. But, at this crazy day at Wimbledon, where not even a single drop of rain fell from the clouds, nothing was impossible.
Gasquet finally showed why he had been considered the next big thing in tennis ever since he was just nine years old. Hitting one formidable backhand after the other, the Frenchman clawed back into the match. The No.12-seed won two tiebreaks to send the match into a final set and stayed strong mentally to edge out Roddick 8-6 in the fifth.
I have never seen Gasquet pump his fist as often as in his match against Roddick, nor have I witnessed the Frenchman step it up on the big points the way he did on Friday. Undoubtedly, this has been Richard Gasquet’s break-out match. Currently ranked No.14, the Frenchman will make his Top 10 debut on Monday and could pose serious trouble to Roger Federer in the semifinals if he plays like he did against Roddick.
Federer dropped a set against Juan Carlos Ferrero in his quarterfinal match, which could really only have happened on this particular day.
Before I caught the end of the Gasquet – Roddick match, there had been a certain women’s semifinals match over on Centre Court. Originally scheduled for Court No.1, Justine Henin’s encounter against Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli had been moved to the big one due to the extroardinary long match between Djokovic and Baghdatis before.
Venus Williams had already qualified for the final following a commanding win over Ana Ivanovic, and I was starting to think about how she would match up against Henin in the final on Saturday. The Belgian was dominating her opponent and took the first set 6-1. Surprise, surprise. After immediately breaking serve in the second set, Bartoli looked ready to be demolished by the No.1.
However, all of a sudden, Henin started to make a lot of unforced errors with her forehand. My thoughts went back to her win over Serena Williams in the quarters, when she went through a similar lapse in the second set.
Bartoli started to regain confidence, and battled bravely to stay in the match. The 18th seed upped her level and managed to increasingly take control of points. Henin remained erratic on her forehand wing and dropped the second set. She looked up to her coach, Carlos Rodrigues, clearly worrying about what had just happened.
Still, if Henin managed to get back to the level she displayed in the first set, there would be no reason for concern, one would expect.
Not exactly. At the beginning of the third set, Henin was simply being overpowered by Bartoli. The ’06 finalist at SW19 played some good defensive tennis, but her opponent would hit one screamer after another, dominating the No.1 in almost every rally. Two weeks ago, Henin had easily beaten Bartoli in the semifinals of Eastbourne, 6-1 6-3, but after letting her opponent back into it in the second set, the Belgian had lost control and saw the match slip away from her. Bartoli was hitting everything and raced out to an incredible 5-0 lead, before she eventually closed it out 6-1, pulling off the biggest upset in women’s tennis since, I don’t know when.
Bartoli will face Venus Williams in the final on Saturday. Surely her dream must come to an end against the three-time Wimbledon titlist. If not, we’ll be looking at one of the most unexpected Grand Slam champions of all time.
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