So who is going to take advantage of what will be a Novak Djokovic-free weekend at Wimbledon? Is it British hero Andy Murray? What about the aging wonder Roger Federer, who hasn’t won a Slam in four years? Or maybe an outsider like JW Tsonga or Tomas Berdych who finally breaks through? Perhaps Milos Raonic gets the serve humming, or Sam Querrey continues his Cinderella run? Hell, Lucas Pouille? Another Slam for Marin Cilic?
I’m not sure yet, but in less than a week someone will be celebrating and seven others (or 127 others) will be wishing.
Before then, Wednesday is quarterfinal day at Wimbledon. So on to my picks.
Roger Federer v Marin Cilic
Have I been impressed by Roger Federer this grass season? Not really. Who’s he beaten? And who’s he beaten that is of the quality of a Grand Slam champion like Marin Cilic? No one.
A quick glance Roger’ss results reveals just one Top 10 win on the season, that coming over Tomas Berdych in Australia. And that was before the back issues, the knee issues and the gastro issues. Assuming best case that all those ailments have magically been cleared up (and really, they haven’t), it’s still a tough task when you consider how badly Federer lost to Cilic in their last meeting at the 2014 US Open semifinals.
I’ll let Roger explain that and his recent practice session.
“I practiced with him when I arrived here at Wimbledon,” Federer said. “He was playing great. 1 2, 1 2, 1 2, serving, boom, forehand, serving, boom, backhand. He’s very aggressive. He blew me off the court at the US Open. I know what I’m getting into.
“Everything he touched went in. I don’t know. It was all right, here is a chance, boom. Maybe here is another chance, boom. That’s kind of how it was for three straight sets. I didn’t play poorly in any way. It was just all on his racquet. It was very seldom that I was blown off the court like that.”
Boom. That doesn’t sound good, does it?
But aside from the US Open Federer has owned the Croatian 5-1 and Marin hasn’t been a world-beater much either lately. He, too, had a nice draw and was the beneficiary of a Kei Nishikori rib injury on Monday.
And since that US Open he just hasn’t had any real standout wins. Of course, we know he can get hot and he won’t be intimidated by Roger, but there’s no indication from him that he can cause the upset here.
Federer, however, has looked beatable after that ho-hum first week. Still, I think experience and revenge win the day, and somehow Federer prevails in a nailbiter. It’s Wimbledon after all.
The Pick: Federer in 5
Andy Murray v JW Tsonga
This one is 12-2 for Andy in their series and that’s about all I need to know. To beat Murray you have to be mentally checked in for 3-4 hours right now and I don’t think Tsonga is capable of doing that.
The Frenchman has the game, the tools, the talent and has had his share of big wins, but lately after injury I don’t think he’s seasoned enough right to pull off the upset.
Had Tsonga played a full, injury-free schedule and done well in Paris, I’d given him a better chance here. But he hasn’t and under Ivan Lendl Murray’s going to be that much tougher to crack.
“He’s a really, really good grass court player, very, very dangerous,” Murray assessed of Tsonga. “I played him here a couple of times before. Both matches were hard. They weren’t easy. A few of the sets came down to just a couple of points. I’m aware I’ll have to be playing at my highest level to win.
“In terms of dealing with everything else, I’ve been dealing with it for years. I feel no different this year to any other year when I played here.”
I think the Scot eventually makes Tsonga play too many ball and gets through.
The Pick: Murray in 4
Tomas Berdych v Lucas Pouille
Is anybody picking the kid who had never won a grass match until Wimbledon? That’s Lucas Pouille.
The 22-year-old Pouille doesn’t get the notoriety that the others in his peer group get, but that’s likely to change, especially if he can author the upset.
Berdych has been a consistent player. And by that I mean He consistently beats the lower ranked guys and consistently loses to those above him. That much we know in stone.
And he just beat youngsters Alexander Zverev and today Jiri Vesely. And Pouille just won his first 5-set match on Monday 10-8 in the fifth. So even though Berdych went five himself, I think the big Czech will be in better shape and while Pouille might hit the bigger ball, Berdych, the 2010 finalist, eventually gets the win.
The Pick: Berdych in 4
Milos Raonic v Sam Querrey
This is probably the toughest match of the day. Milos Raonic looked dead to rights Monday down two sets to David Goffin. Sam Querrey looked to same last week down two sets to Lukas Rosol. Both came back, and here we are.
Querrey leads 2-1 winning their first clash at Wimbledon in 2012 in four. I think it’s a similar match with a few breakers only this time the Canadian comes through.
Sam’s played really well, especially in that bizarre win Saturday over Novak Djokovic. Then he took care of business against Nicolas Mahut Monday – no easy task. Sam’s serving well, hitting with authority and playing smart tennis. But I just think Raonic is a better version. And Milos is more honed to playing late in Grand Slam tournaments.
“We pretty much try to do the same thing,” said Raonic of the matchup. “Maybe I try to sort of push the aspect of coming in a bit more than he does. But I think we’re pretty much going to try to play on our own terms. Serve is going to be important. But it’s really going to be about who can throw the other guy off.”
And that’s the key. The serve. It will be a shootout, no doubt, and I like the Canadian.
The Pick: Raonic in 4
Could we get four upsets? Absolutely. I don’t think Federer is 100% so Cilic could very well blow him off the court again. I just don’t think Cilic is at (or ever will be again) his NYC level.
If Tsonga gets hot watch out. Berdych isn’t a sure thing to win, he never is. And when you play tiebreaker tennis anything can happen in Raonic and Querrey.
So with a lot of close matches expected, it should be a fun day of tennis.
ESPN has live coverage starting at 8am ET.
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