The women crowned their champion today, a surprising Cinderella in Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli. Tomorrow in the men’s final there will be no such surprise because the two men remaining are the two men most thought we’d see playing on the final Sunday in Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Before the title match, first to the semifinals from yesterday.
The best thing I saw Friday was the re-emergence of Juan Martin Del Potro. Grass isn’t even his surface but Del Potro, taped knee and all, showed again why he could (or should) be the next new No. 1. Playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal since early 2010 wrist surgery, Del Potro went toe-to-toe, stroke-for-stroke with the world No. 1 and 2011 champion Djokovic in a five-set cliffhanger that will go down among the greatest matches ever played at Wimbledon.
Del Potro, who had lost 19-17 to Roger Federer during the Olympics on the same court, again displayed his heart, his fight and above all his very raw, ferocious game. If he can stay healthy, very big if, you have to think many more Grand Slams are in his future, maybe one in just 45 days.
As for Djokovic, full credit to the Serb who was slipping and sliding around the court in his new club-mandated sneaks. It wasn’t his finest performance but once again he showed the resolve that champions need. Novak took Del Potro’s very best shot and somehow survived.
As for Murray, he got down early then relied on that experience to overcome the monstrous 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz. The Pole, a future Top 5 player I believe, showed a lot of variety and touch, perhaps too much of the latter, but in the end Murray just wanted it and desired it more. And he’ll give the local something to really cheer for come Sunday.
So, that sets up the “dream” final…
Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic
The two best hardcourt players in the game renew their rivalry on the lush lawns of Wimbledon. Djokovic leads this series 11-7 having won the last three but Murray got him in the US Open final just after he beat him in the Olympic semifinals last August on the grass.
For me, the Olympic win may help Murray a little in the confidence department but I really don’t factor it in much here because I just don’t think Djokovic was mentally into it back then. After his physical win over Del Potro Friday, he is now. He’s 100% invested.
And I don’t think there will be any carryover fatigue. Murray played five sets in his quarter and then four yesterday while Djokovic punched the clock for nearly five hours in the Del Potro epic. But even as the temperatures are forecasted to climb higher Sunday, both guys are incredibly fit and fresh. And as we’ve seen over and over before Djokovic seems to play even better after grueling marathon wins.
As for the matchup, both are very similar guys. Both play all court games with decent serves, excellent returns, etc. Djokovic offers a little more power while Murray gets the edge in variety, but otherwise there’s little to choose between these two longtime rivals.
Therefore I think the key will be the serving numbers. Both guys had huge ace days in their semifinals (20+) and I feel the guy who leads in that category tomorrow may very well win it.
I also think Djokovic is playing the slightly better tennis week, and he might save his best for last. Novak cruised into the semifinals where he met a very dangerous, very in-form Del Potro. Djokovic needed to find some magic to outlast Del Potro because the Argentine simply wasn’t giving anything anyway. Novak just took what really wasn’t there.
While during a bad patch, Murray needed help to beat Fernando Verdasco and got it from the mentally weak Spaniard who wasn’t able to put the Scot away. And Murray also was in some trouble in the third set to Janowicz before the 22-year-old also succumbed to the moment.
The moment won’t get to Djokovic and neither will Murray. Not in the end of another majestic win.
The pick: Djokovic in five
ESPN has live coverage at 9am ET.
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