And here we are, a Federer-less final four at Wimbledon. The 8-time champion Roger Federer was stunned Wednesday by Kevin Anderson who wouldn’t fold during a 5-set thrilling win. The upset still left two of the Big 4 in the hunt and squarely as the tournament favorites.
Novak Djokovic has seen a bit of a rebirth this event, though we seem to be saying that every tournament. But he has been strong losing only two sets and looked good in wins this week over Karen Khachanov and Kei Nishikori. But next is longtime rival Rafael Nadal who needed to grind out a 4-hour, 48-minute win over Juan Martin Del Potro.
Anderson’s opponent will be another giant in John Isner. The American reached his first Grand Slam semi after outserving a hobbled Milos Raonic. Isner’s taken advantage of a dream draw, but can he go even further?
To my picks.
Kevin Anderson v John Isner
A 12th meeting for two of the tallest players in the game. Isner leads 8-3 having won their last five. So right there that’s advantage John. But Anderson has been playing some of the best tennis of his career the last 10 months. Though, Isner has been hot as well as we saw in Miami.
Like Isner-Raonic, this is also another coin flip kind of match. The guy who serves better will win. That’s what it will come down to. But who will it be?
As I said, the head-to-head gives the edge to Isner. Fitness should go Isner’s way as well – he didn’t play a 4-plus hours on Wednesday. Isner’s been in a better serving rhythm holding 95 straight times. And overall I like his serve better than Anderson’s.
Anderson gets the edge on the return – he did snap Federer’s 85 hold service streak. He also has the motivation having lost to Isner so many times before. Plus he has the experience of having played and won a Grand Slam semifinal – and he just beat Mr. Federer!
So who to pick? I have no idea. If it were on hard court in the U.S. I’d go Isner. Clay I’d go Isner. But grass doesn’t necessarily help the tall guys because the ball stays so low. And Anderson is a tough better off the ground. Then again, it helps the serve.
It’s going to get to tiebreakers and through the years I’ve seen Anderson get tight on many more occasions – though he didn’t against Fed – than Isner. So I see Anderson feeling the nerves, missing his spots on serve and Isner getting a break or a mini-break. Just enough to get through.
The pick: Isner in 4
Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic looks like a man on a mission. Finally. He’s angry, bitter, easily upset. And those are all good things. Very good things. Because that means, or should mean, he cares about winning tennis matches. Of course that doesn’t equate to he’ll win every match, and he might not tomorrow because he goes up against Rafael Nadal.
In their storied rivalry Djokovic does lead 26-25 but Nadal has the edge 9-4 in Slams but off clay it’s 3-3 and at Wimbledon 1-1 with the Serb winning the 2011 final, their most recent match on grass.
So that’s a plus for Novak. And he’s beaten his more than anyone else. Another plus.
But Rafa’s been the more accomplished player of late having won big matches, won titles and proven his in fact the one in better form.
Meanwhile, Djokovic has been a tease of late. Every time he looks to be back, he tosses in a lemon (remember the French?). But I don’t think that happens tomorrow, however, he hasn’t won a match this big in a while and hasn’t even been to a Slam semifinal in almost two years. So why believe he can do it now?
Well, again to me, it’s his on court demeanor. He just looks engaged and full of fury, and that’s what he need and use to beat someone like Rafa. He already knows how to do it, better than anyone on the tour. Rafa knows it also and he knows Novak has the game. Novak played him tough on clay a few months ago, and this time on grass, on which Nadal has really struggled, Novak gets the jobs done.
The Pick: Djokovic in 4
Let’s be honest, both these match could go either way. There’s just not much to choose here.
Obviously in the first match the better server will win. That’s simple. But in the second, I just think Novak has the game and the gameplan to beat Nadal. Except it’s not that simple when you add in all the outside chaos Djokovic has been going through plus the shaky results.
So who really knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Hell, it could end up being two one-sided matches or two very long marathons, that may even bleed into Saturday. I have no idea, but it should be interesting to see!
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