The upsets we’ve seen for much of this spring and early summer have never really materialized at the Olympic thus far, and that’s good news for us fans because what a semifinal line-up of tennis action is in store from Wimbledon this morning.
Three of our four top players in men’s tennis are in the semifinals and really the best three ladies are in the women’s last four.
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are back for a second straight month in the semifinals of an event at Wimbledon. All three had routine wins yesterday as did outsider Juan Martin Del Potro. I’ve read plenty of comments of how Federer was “lucky” to have won the way he did. Well, he was, but that happens. And for the record, it wasn’t luck that he got himself into position for matchpoint, was it?
OK, looking ahead to today…
Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin Del Potro
I have long pegged Juan Martin Del Potro to be a man to be feared but against Roger Federer the Argentine, except for a brief surge at the end of 2009, has largely been a disappointment.
Mentally, I just don’t think he’s capable anymore of pulling out that big win. Not yet. Not on grass. And not after the way his body failed him against Federer in Paris.
Federer now owns Del Potro 12-2 and 5-0 this year. Del Potro got that stunning win at the US Open in 2009 but that really seems like an eternity ago. And it was. Since returning from his wrist injury Del Po just can’t seem to break through against the Swiss and unfortunately I just don’t think that’s going to change today on grass, his worst surface.
Del Po, however is playing and and has been in good form for much of the year.
“I think he took advantage of a draw here, and then was able to just come through convincingly,” Federer said of Del Potro. “I have my hands full with Juan Martin. He’s obviously beaten me in the biggest match we’ve played against each other, the finals of the US Open. I’m aware of that. He’s a big player with a big serve. That makes it obviously tricky on a fast court like grass.”
As Federer said, with his game and arsenal Del Potro is still an extremely dangerous guy, more so than Isner, I think. Still, Federer’s experience, drive and the surface should be the difference here. One thing that gives me pause is Del Potro in this case really has little expectations. No one is tabbing the Tower of Tandil to come out ahead in this one. And that’s always cause for some concern especially in the high risk game of best-of-three on grass.
The pick: Federer in two
Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic
In the main event, British native son Andy Murray attempts to return to a final at Wimbledon for the second time in as many months, and assure himself of at least a silver medal for his country. But he’s going to have to beat nemesis and No. 2 Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic has been on top of Murray recently winning two of three this year including that pulse-pounding 5-setter at the Australian Open. And overall he leads the Scot 8-5.
“He’s a home favorite, a hero, somebody that carries the tennis in Great Britain,” Djokovic said of Murray. “The whole nation will be watching and hoping he can get to the finals and win a medal for his country. This is absolutely normal.”
In this match, what’s interesting is the different in attention from Wimbledon to the Olympics. The tennis event at the Olympics is for the most part a sideshow. The whole nation won’t be watching. And there just doesn’t seem to be that same pressure or fervor on Murray as there was last month. Sure internally it’s there, it has to be, but externally it isn’t. Does that help, hurt? Hard to say. Regardless, Murray in fixated on the challenge ahead, and the chance to make good.
“It’s nice to get the opportunity,” Murray. “If I win one of the next two matches, I’ll give myself a shot at the medal. Obviously winning the first one is the most important thing just now. I need to be ready for it, but it’s very exciting.”
And it should be exciting.
I do think Novak is going to bring that “A” today. With Federer, Murray and the Williams sisters largely the focus, Novak has been forgetten, a little bit. And I think this weekend he gets back in the spotlight, if you will.
So once again, moreso because it’s grass, I have to pick offense over defense…
The pick: Djokovic in two
As for the women’s final four I expect Serena to continue her march to toward gold and meet Sharapova in the final. But really, Sharapova or Maria Kirilenko in the final? It won’t matter. The gold is Serena’s.
FRIDAY OLYMPIC TENNIS SCHEDULE
Centre Court – Start: 12:00
Roger FEDERER (SUI)  V Juan Martin del POTRO (ARG)
Victoria AZARENKA (BLR)  V Serena WILLIAMS (USA)
Andy MURRAY (GBR)  V Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB)
KIRILENKO / PETROVA (RUS)  V WILLIAMS / WILLIAMS (USA)
Court 1 – Start: 12:00
HUBER / RAYMOND (USA)  V HLAVACKOVA / HRADECKA (CZE)
Maria SHARAPOVA (RUS)  V Maria KIRILENKO (RUS) 
FERRER / LOPEZ (ESP) V LLODRA / TSONGA (FRA) [
ROBSON / MURRAY (GBR) V STOSUR / HEWITT (AUS)
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