Let’s talk Wimbledon men’s semifinals. It’s an Old v New theme as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic try to meet in the Sunday final as 23-year-old first-time Slam semifinalists Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov try to play spoiler.
Before we get to Friday, a quick recap of the quarters.
Federer did what he had to do to beat Stan Wawrinka. Even after losing the first set, I never really felt Roger was in trouble. The same couldn’t be said for Djokovic who fell down 2-1 in sets to Marin Cilic. The big Croat had Novak in his crosshairs but appeared to run out of fuel in the end.
After an impressive run which included a stunning upset over Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios was also out of gas allowing Milos Raonic to come away with a comfortable four set win between two monstrous servers.
And in the big surprise, Grigor Dimitrov blew out a pancake-flat Andy Murray. Murray said he got off to a slow start, and that’s true, but he never really got into the match. Credit to Dimitrov who showed some serious chops taking down the defending champion on his home turf. But can Grigor continue the run?
On to my picks…
Novak Djokovic v Grigor Dimitrov
Last year Djokovic stumbled into the final against Murray after a 4 hour, 45 minute semifinal grinder with Juan Martin Del Potro. Now again Novak goes into a big Wimbledon match following a 5-setter, but this time he should be fresh. And he’ll need to be against the upstart Dimitrov who is in the midst of his best career run. The Bulgarian captured the Queen’s title last month then has backed it nicely at Wimbledon culminating by his Murray shocker, his ninth straight match win.
We know he has the shots and the confidence, but Grigor’s now starting the walk the talk. Murray may not be the same guy he was a year ago, but it’s still no easy feat beating the Scot on Center Court Wimbledon. Just ask Djokovic who couldn’t manage a single set against Andy a year ago.
But Djokovic has played pretty well thus far, as well. And those niggling injuries don’t seem to be bother right now. His rival Rafael Nadal is gone. Murray is out. And he’s got to be hungry for some hardware after the French disappointment. Plus, even though Grigor’s a different player now than he was a year ago, he does lead 3-1 in this series.
So for now I’ll take experience over youth. But Novak better be on his mark and on his serve.
The pick: Djokovic in five
Roger Federer v Milos Raonic
After years of chatter, Milos Raonic is finally having the breakout season we thought he would. The Canadian has too big of a serve and too big of a forehand not to be a regular factor late in Slams. And we’re going to see a lot more of him. So like it or not (yes, he can be boring to watch), we better get used to him.
While Raonic may be around for a while, who knows how much time the 32-year-old Federer has left in the hourglass. So this weekend is extra important.
Roger’s looked strong en route to the Final Four, but he hasn’t really had any true tests. Wawrinka isn’t great on grass. Gilles Muller has a big serve but little else and the rest, well, meh. Raonic will bring more: game, smarts and power. But he lacks experience and he’s never ever beaten Federer.
Roger leads Milos 4-0 including a win over the Canadian on the grass at Halle last year in a final set breaker. Raonic’s problem has been and still is breaking Federer’s serve. Federer’s been serving so well all event – losing serve just once – so I have to wonder how a poor returner like Raonic is going to break Federer’s serve? It’s unlikely, that’s how.
On the other side, Federer’s had a history of mowing down bombers on the grass like Andy Roddick, Ivo Karlovic, Marat Safin, Mark Philippoussis, Robin Soderling and even Pete Sampras. So my gut feeling is Roger will have more break chances than Milos, and maybe cash one or two in. And that should be enough.
That said, Federer is 32 and he’s not reading those rockets like he use to. And he’s still been awfully shaky of late in breakers. But I think the good draw for Milos catches up with him here. Like Grigor, he’ll have to wait a little longer. Experience wins out.
The pick: Federer in 4
Overall, I think both Federer and Djokovic could lose. Both youngsters are definitely saying the right things and playing well. And I just don’t think Djokovic is the same guy he was a few years ago nor is Federer. So there’s real hope if you are rooting for the upset(s).
ESPN will have the coverage live starting at 8am.
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