And then there was one. One of the Big 4 remaining, that is. After five rounds of battle on God’s green earth, only Roger Federer was left standing among the Big 4 at Wimbledon.
Rafael Nadal couldn’t complete his comeback against Gilles Muller. Novak Djokovic succumbed to an elbow injury and a hobbled Andy Murray was outgunned by American ace Sam Querrey.
Meanwhile, it’s just Roger Federer, a 35-year-old Roger Federer strolling on the lawn, reaching another semifinal and doing so without dropping a set. Just amazing.
As for Djokovic, it sounds like he’s going to finally take that break. It also sounds like he doesn’t want to do that, but his body is calling the shots now. And Novak’s got no choice. Plus, with baby number two coming, why not take a few months off, heal the injury – assuming it doesn’t need surgery which would likely end his season – and come back in the fall, or even at the start of next year, fresh like Federer did.
Any sort of time off will all but end the Andre Agassi experiment, though it may be over already. And I’m not sure what Mario Ancic brought. I do wonder why bring on Agassi if you know you have had this elbow issue for what Djokovic says has been over a year? It’s just strange. But then a lot has been strange with Djokovic since winning the French.
Murray has also hit the skids of late. Being No. 1 is no easy job and the Scot is finding that out the hard way. So too is his body. Murray came into Wimbledon as the defending champion and also with a bad hip. Well, he left Wimbledon without a title and a hip that’s apparently gotten worse.
You can see Murray struggling with his movement against Querrey, and Sam took advantage picking off Murray meatballs for easy winners in a runaway 5-set win.
While numerous players have had hips issues – Lleyton Hewitt, Gustavo Kuerten and Agassi – his doesn’t sound that serious. Let’s hope.
Federer, though, has been rock solid thus far and he rolled Milos Raonic as expected. Marin Cilic also advanced to the semifinals in a much tougher-than-expected battle against Gilles Muller who appeared to fizzle at the end.
So a surprising semifinal line-up is set, and thankfully everyone seems healthy! To my picks.
Marin Cilic v Sam Querrey
Cilic has won all four meetings with Querrey including two epics at Wimbledon. They played a 2009 5-setter and 2012 5-setter that went 5-and-half hours ending 17-15!
“We played few times,” Cilic said of Querrey. “Most of the matches were very tight, quite long, especially here. Both of those were five sets. I think Sam played really well this year. Even last year over here in Wimbledon. He’s got a big game, you know, potentially that can hurt anyone in the game. For me, I have to get ready fully, to be very focused on my own game.”
I don’t expect a reprise of their 2012 tussle, but we could see five sets again tomorrow. Why not! Both guys are in form, full of confidence and both playing in their first Wimbledon semifinal. And they are pretty similar in all the key categories – serve, backhand, forehand, return, etc.
But Cilic is the overall better player. He has the head-to-head edge and has been here before, winning the US Open back in 2014. Querrey just isn’t on familiar ground this deep in a Slam and I feel if Murray had been 100% – he was up a set and a break in that match – the American would be on a flight home right now. Querrey’s also played three straight 5-set matches and at some point the body collects. Like the taxman, it always collects.
The laid-back Querrey, though, isn’t fazed.
“I’ve had some tough grass court losses to him,” Querrey said. “I’m sure my coach Craig will look at those results, tweak a thing or two. I haven’t talked to him yet about it. Part of it’s mental, part of it’s physical. I’m going to go out there and try to keep doing what I’ve been doing these last five matches, and hopefully that will be good enough to win.”
Sam does have a big enough game to hurt anyone. And his groundstrokes are decent. But I lean to Cilic and his return game to sneak a break somewhere. In a tight one…
The Pick: Cilic in 5
Roger Federer v Tomas Berdych
Is there any hope for Berdych here? Sure! He beat Federer at Wimbledon before, should have beaten him in their last meeting in Miami and he’s made it this far winning five matches. So why not?
Well, it’s Tomas Berdych and the other guy is Federer, that’s why. And Federer’s playing so well right now having not lost a set. And he just played a near clone of Berdych in Raonic. Stylistically, there are pretty much the same. Tomas a bit better off the ground with Milos the edge in serving.
But I think Berdych will have a good day and play Roger tough. And he comes in with confidence.
“I’m probably in the best possible situation I can be right now,” said Berdych who is 6-18 vs Federer. “I had a pretty good run so far. Yeah, today I think was a little bonus of all the matches before. That’s just how it is.
Really, I cannot be in the better position before the Friday’s match.”
The problem is Roger’s sees the draw, sees opportunity and sees that he’s about to be 36 and this could be it. And what’s scary is Tomas probably sees it too, and he already has his bags packed.
The Pick: Federer in 4
Obviously the first match could go either way. The only thing that would surprise me is a blowout win for Querrey. In the second match, I could almost see Tomas getting hot and beating up on “old man” Federer. If the Czech can somehow control the middle of the court and get Roger moving, then he’ll have a shot. But it’s a real longshot.
ESPN has live coverage of both finals starting at 8am.
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