It’s a second straight Federer-less semifinal at Wimbledon. With the six-time champion and pre-tournament favorite watching from home, there is added anticipation for a new Wimbledon winner this season.
At the very least we’ll have a first-time finalist in London, but the storylines this weekend haven’t changed: Can Rafael Nadal repeat and when will Murray finally win? Well, at the start I picked Nadal to beat Djokovic in the final, and both are left. So…
On to the matches.
JW Tsonga v. Novak Djokovic
Tsonga and Djokovic are first on Centre Court at 1pm. We all remember Djokovic winning his first career Grand Slam at the Australian back in 2008. The Serb is since a much, much better player. But Tsonga is as well. The Frenchman just obliterated Roger Federer in the final three sets of their match on Wednesday, and if JW can stay on that type of roll he’s tough to beat on any surface.
As I said yesterday, Federer in some ways let Tsonga dictate. Djokovic won’t. Novak has one of the best service returns in the game and even if Tsonga remains in that serving zone, I think Djokovic will get a few more break chances than Federer did.
Tsonga is also a hot and cold player and I just feel Djokovic can and will mix it up enough to get him out of rhythm and into some discomfort.
That said, Djokovic didn’t look that great in a win over Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals. However, Tomic is a tricky player. One who plays with little pace, a rarity these days. By contrast, Tsonga will come out pounding the ball and I think Novak’s defense should be able to blunt it.
These two have played seven times and Tsonga has won five of them. A clear edge to Tsonga. Their last meeting went five sets last year at the Australian Open. I think Tsonga is playing great tennis but Djokovic is 46-1 on the year and I think he’ll have too much experience and too much defense for Tsonga to overcome. I’ll take Novak on a whim in four.
After the year Novak’s had – 43-match match win streak, etc – and he comes away with just one Slam and two SFs that would be by some measures a failure. Tomorrow, he gets to No. 1.
Rafael Nadal v. Andy Murray
In the main event, Nadal has dominated Murray at Wimbledon 6-0 in sets in two meetings. In fact each of those wins propelled Nadal to the title. Will this be another? I think so.
Murray has been playing pretty well the last two months and remember on the clay he took a set off Nadal. But Rafa got back on track at the French blanking Murray in three sets.
And then there’s the injury issue. If Nadal is 100% healthy why is he getting injections in foot? I don’t know. Anyway, I expect Rafa and his foot to be okay, hopefully.
Murray’s game is still far too passive, and until he can parlay it into a big time best-of-five win, I’ll continue to go against him. Also, I still feel the pressure gets to Andy, especially at Wimbledon where Murray’s only won one set in two semifinal matches.
Murray, though, has the game to beat Nadal. There’s no denying that. I just don’t think he’ll do it.
I like Nadal in four sets.
In honesty, taking Nadal and Djokovic in four sets is poor. It’s almost a cop-out. I give both Tsonga and Murray a decent shot at the upset and it wouldn’t surprise me if the top two players – Rafa and Novak – lose. It’s that close. I just think experience and pressure plays a huge role. Nadal and Djokovic have both shown they are up to the task in Grand Slams. Murray and Tsonga have yet to do it (win Slams). Maybe they will. Maybe they will this weekend. Regardless, it should be fun to watch.
The two semifinals are on ESPN and on NBC. If you are on the west coast, bad luck, I guess.
FRIDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 13:00 Start Time
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
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Roger Federer v Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic v Richard Gasquet; Wimbledon SF Picks And Pans
Rafael Nadal v Andy Murray Ahead? Australian Open QF Tuesday Picks And Pans
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Djokovic v Murray, Tsonga v Wawrinka; French Open SF Picks And Pans