I said before the match that Roger Federer’s only chance of beating Novak Djokovic today in the Wimbledon semifinals was to serve big, and that’s exactly what he did. In a somewhat stunning display, Federer dominated Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to advance to a record-breaking 8th career Wimbledon final. But the work isn’t done.
“I didn’t break down crying and fell to my knees and thought the tournament is over and I achieved everything I ever wanted,” Federer joked. “I know it’s been a great tournament, but we’ll assess that once the tournament is over. Right now I want to try to play the best possible final I can.”
Played at a brisk pace and under the roof because of the morning rains, Federer and Djokovic split the first two sets in under an hour. There were few rallies or enthralling points early on; just a serve and a few strokes thereafter, if that.
Djokovic came out of the blocks looking a little nervous. Federer his usual composed and focused.
The intrigue and quality finally heightened in the third when both guys began to settle in to what would become a power struggle. And some of the points they produced were breathtaking. But all the while it was Federer who was having the easier service games than Djokovic, and finally that paid off.
After missing earlier chances, Federer capitalized on Djokovic’s 4-5 service game with an overhead winner bringing the throngs of Federer fans to their collective feet.
With Federer up two sets to one, Djokovic’s appeared to lay down. The defending champ came out sluggish in his very first service game of the fourth and Federer promptly broke. Roger had a rocky final service game but managed to close it out giving him one his best wins this decade, maybe second only to his 2010 Australian Open title.
Full credit to Federer who simply outplayed Djokovic in every respect. At 30 it’s remarkable he has the ability to do it against a 25-year-old Djokovic who should be in his prime. Honestly, I didn’t think that level still existed. I just didn’t. Maybe the roof helped, maybe Djokovic woke up on the wrong side of the bed as John McEnroe suggested, but bottom line Federer served well and executed. Incredible.
“It’s always nice beating someone like Novak, who has done so well here last year, the last couple years,” said Federer. “We’ve never played on grass. It was obviously a big occasion. These matches only help my confidence. I hope I can use it then for the finals.”
For Novak, I just have to wonder where his belief was, because he never showed any. He looked like a guy playing in his first Slam semifinal. Not someone who had dominated the circuit the last year. Dominated Federer. Has he already regressed? Has the limelight taken that desire that quickly? Is the edge gone? I guess so.
“I expected more from myself,” said Djokovic who hasn’t won a title since Miami. “I needed to be very consistent to win this match, and I wasn’t. I had ups and downs throughout. Unfortunately the one that lasted for 15, 20 minutes at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth cost me the win today.”
Djokovic also revealed he wasn’t “wasn’t feeling great” the last few days. But really, he looked fine Wednesday against Mayer, right?
Federer is now just three sets from a seventh Wimbledon title, a 17th Grand Slam and a return to the No. 1.
And in the final there will be no Rafael Nadal, a nemisis of his in previous Major. It will be Andy Murray.
Murray advanced to his first Wimbledon final after a convincing four set win over JW Tsonga. Murray dominated early before a hiccup in the third. And then the fourth finally swung in Murray’s favor. In all a very strong perfomance from Murray and a rather listless one from Tsonga, at least early on.
“I started the match really well, served really well,” Murray said. “One loose game at the start of the third set and he came back into it. He was hitting some unbelievable passing shots, volleys. I did well to hang in there in the end because he started to play really well.”
And now with Murray, the first Brit to reach the Wimbledon final in 74 years, the fun really begins.
“Yes, there is a lot of pressure and stress around this time of year,” Murray said. “I don’t feel it when I’m on the practice court [or] when I’m just kind of walking around. I try not to think about that stuff. But in the back of my mind it’s obviously there.”
Andy’s right, there no getting away from pressure. In what is arguably the biggest final played at Wimbledon recent history, it’s Andy Murray carrying his country against perhaps the greatest grass court player ever Roger Federer on Sunday.
So who’ll win the final?
Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray
Murray leads this head-to-head 8-7 but they’ve only played once in the last 18 months, that a convincing win by Federer over Andy in the Dubai finals earlier this year.
Of course the showdowns that matter were the two whippings Federer put on Murray in the Slams finals at the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Opens. Federer straight-setted Murray in both and honestly I think there’s a good chance that happens again on Sunday.
With Nadal out, Murray did take that next step reaching the final. But unfortunately he’ll have to beat Federer to get that elusive maiden Slam. Having Roger in title match will only brighten the spotlight on the match and ramp up the pressure, and I just don’t think Murray can handle it.
“It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, you know, if I play well, I’m capable of winning,” Murray said. “If you look at his record here over the past 10 years or so, yeah, it’s been incredible. So the pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else I guess it would be different. But there will be less on me on Sunday because of who he is.”
Andy’s playing well enough to win, no doubt, and he’s beaten Roger on many occasions before. But this isn’t Toronto or Shanghai or Indian Wells, this is the bloody final of the biggest tennis tournament of the world, played in Murray’s backyard. And Federer’s won it six times, Murray nil.
There could be more “heat” on Murray this match than any other player in the Open Era. Think about that. The entire success-starved country of Great Britain will be behind Murray come Sunday.
Australia’s had their champions. France won with Yannick Noah in the 80s. Not England. Nothing.
Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl, doesn’t help because he hasn’t won Wimbledon either – although Federer coach Paul Annacone has led Federer to zero Slams since joining the team. So for me it comes down to the player, the moment and really Federer’s serve.
If the back holds up and he serves like he did today, Roger will win. If he doesn’t serve well he might lose. That’s the match: The Federer serve. And really this could easily go Murray’s way especially if Roger plays like crap. But because Roger’s proven, as he did today, that time and time again he can win the big one, I have to take him. And until Andy wins his first, I have to go against him.
The pick: Federer in four
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