For all the upsets and for all the surprises this fortnight, we are still staring at a pretty interesting Wimbledon men’s semifinal. Top seed Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray remain the clear favorites to meet in a third Grand Slam final in the last 52 weeks, but easier said than done because both have giants standing in their way. Playing the role spoiler Friday are the menacing 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz and 6-foot-6 Juan Martin Del Potro.
On to my picks…
Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Martin Del Potro
The biggest surprise of the Wednesday quarterfinals for me wasn’t Fernando Verdasco nearly pulling off the upset over Murray, it was Juan Martin Del Potro getting up off the turf after hyperextending that suspect left knee early on against David Ferrer. As I watched the reply, it wasn’t the immediate match I was worried about, it was Del Potro’s summer season and the US Open.
The way the big guy is with injuries and seeing his painful expression following the fall, I didn’t think we’d see him back on the court anytime soon. Yet, somehow not only did he get back up he also played some of his best tennis crushing the Spaniard in three tidy sets.
Assuming the knee is better (or not worse), if Delpo can maintain that level he’ll have a crack at Novak. Djokovic look so-so Wednesday in a straight-set win over Tomas Berdych. The Czech was up two breaks in the second and played him tough early on but couldn’t take it when it was there. Delpo has similar firepower but mentally he’s far better than Berdych.
And Delpo has three wins over the Serb including a big one at Wimbledon last year in the Olympic bronze match and their most recent in a three-setter at Indian Wells.
That said, even if Delpo is 100% healthy I like Djokovic here. There’s no Rafael Nadal, no Roger Federer and after the disappointment of the French Novak can make up for it this weekend with a second Wimbledon title. Grass might not be his best surface – neither is it Delpo’s – but like Del Potro he too hasn’t dropped a set but I just think he’s playing better tennis and he needs this more. Perhaps Delpo’s time will come again at the US Open, for now…
The pick: Djokovic in four
Andy Murray vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Murray got his requisite scare yesterday in comeback cliffhanger over an inspired Fernando Verdasco. Even down two sets, watching the contest and taking Fernando’s history into account, you never had the feeling the Spaniard had enough mentally to win the final point. Still, with so much weight in the moment and hte country watching, credit to Murray for getting through what turned into a very tough quarterfinal match.
But Murray would be best advised to avoid going into another deep hole against a bruiser like Janowicz. The 22-year-old Pole is the new star on tour and clearly the best of the new, young bunch thus far. Thanks to his 6’8″ frame he’s got a devastating serve complemented by powerful groundstrokes and above-average movement for a big man. And of course he loves the drop shot. So at a young age the young Jeryz, who I liken to Marat Safin, has got himself quite a toolbox. But it’s not as big as Murray’s.
Murray’s variety really pays off on the grass. He can mix speeds, strokes and angles and that creates a lot of havoc on the low bouncing surface. And with the crowd behind him he’s awfully tough to beat on the lawns. In fact, no one has done so in his last 16 matches on this surface and I don’t think Jerzy will do it here either.
Still, I like Jerzy to keep it close. The “Rifle” beat him in Paris and if he can get his serve and his game clicking, he can reduce even a top tier player like Murray to just bystander. And with the pressure on Murray, his arsenal makes him a very dangerous free swinger, especially on a fast surface like grass. But in the end I think Murray uses his guile and his fans to get through this very dangerous duel.
The pick: Murray in four
While I’ve picked both favorites, Djokovic and Murray, it wouldn’t stun me if the opposite happened. It’s been a weird Wimbledon and as I said, both big men could get hot and take out the higher seeds. Jerzy has the serve and the game to run the table. Del Potro not only has those same weapons but he’s also got the experience having won a Slam and beaten Djokovic on grass.
So it should be quite a morning/afternoon of tennis. Happy 4th to those who celebrate! We’ll get some bonus fireworks on Friday.
FRIDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 1.00pm Start Time
1. Gentlemen’s Singles – Semi-finals
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
2. Gentlemen’s Singles – Semi-finals
Jerzy Janowicz (POL) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
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