If the weather holds, we should be treated to a great day of tennis Friday with the men’s semifinals plus the women’s semifinals earlier in the day.
Looking back at the men’s quarters, a few things stood out.
Novak Djokovic is looking more vulnerable than he should be. Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer both appear to be peaking at just the right time – either that or Richard Gasquet and Kevin Anderson are that hapless – and Marin Cilic is proving that 2014 was no fluke.
Who’s playing the best? Eye test says Federer by a mile. But did anyone really think Roger would have any trouble with Gasquet, John Isner or Phil Kohlschreiber? No.
Meanwhile, Stan had to stop a 4-match losing streak against his nemesis Anderson, and he did so impressively. And Cilic showed off his fitness and some mental toughness beating JW Tsonga in five after squandering those three matchpoints in the fourth.
As for Novak, well, he’s winning. And that’s what counts.
Now for the semifinals.
Novak Djokovic v Marin Cilic
You have to take notice of the run of Marin Cilic. The Croat came into the US Open with few thinking he could duplicate his incredible run from a year ago. Yet here he is again, just two wins and six sets from defending his title.
Marin’s had a couple of good – but not great – wins, beating Jeremy Chardy in four sets then a 5-set victory over Tsonga in the heat. The guy has played a lot of tennis the last three rounds but he’s fit and after two days off I think he should be ready and rested.
Djokovic hasn’t had to work as hard as Marin, but in his last two rounds we’ve seen his level dip, and he’s acknowledged as much.
There are some holes in his game right now. And for whatever reasons – likely the quick court speed? – Djokovic struggles the final weekend at the US Open, winning just once in five tries on the last day, and last year he was blown out by Kei Nishikori in this round.
So question marks exist for both players. The head-to-head, however, leaves no question. It gives a clear edge to Djokovic who’s won all 13 against the Cilic including a rout at Wimbledon. And since his US Open title, Cilic has hardly made an impression on Novak, losing easily in his last seven sets against the Serb.
On hardcourts, Djokovic has lost just two sets in nine career meetings. Cilic now has the task of winning three. I think he gets one.
Yes, Novak’s played some patchy tennis, but I think he’s just been the better player than Cilic who’s benefited in part from a good draw. Djokovic hasn’t beaten much of anyone either, but he’s got a much better resume this year and I think he has the motivation plus the head-to-head record is too hard to overlook.
The pick: Djokovic in four
Roger Federer v Stan Wawrinka
At the start of the tournament I called one guy the X-Factor and that’s Stan Wawrinka. If he got on a run, well, watch out. And guess what, it looks like he’s on another one of those runs.
Granted, he doesn’t have any big wins this week, but he blew out a red-hot Anderson and has only lost one single set. The guy is a bull, built for best-of-5 and under Magnus Norman, he’s not afraid of anyone.
But to continue he’ll have to beat the hottest player under the sun, and that’s Roger Federer.
I’ve said it before that Father Time is undefeated. Well, Federer is taking him to a fifth set!
Since turning 34, no one has played better tennis than Roger. He’s hyper aggressive, flying around the court like he’s 24 again, using that SABR to rattle the opposition and he’s been serving like a king.
Can he keep it up this weekend and win 18? I think he can.
But first he’ll have to get by Stan. Federer’s won 16 of 19 over his gold-medal winning partner but in recent years Stan’s been a thorn.
Stan’s won at least a set in six of their last seven and he’s beaten Roger twice in big matches, in the Monte Carlo final last year and in the French Open quarters. Both, of course, were on clay, but remember how much Stan pushed Roger at the ATP Finals last fall?
And Stan’s going to push Roger tomorrow.
The key will be Federer’s serve against Stan’s return, which is not his best shot. And I just think Roger will have an easier time holding and will create more break chances of the two.
Still, this is going to be a war and we’ll really find out if this Roger revival has legs or if it’s just a product of a fortunate draw and good luck.
What we do know is quick hardcourts are not Stan’s best surface, it’s Roger’s.
The pick: Federer in 5
Could we see a Cilic-Wawrinka final? We could, but I don’t think Cilic beats Djokovic. That would shock me even though Novak’s looked rusty at times. However, Wawrinka could very well beat Roger and I give him a strong chance to do it. Stan has shown he more up to the task than just about anyone right now. Court speed and conditions, though, tilt it in Federer’s favor.
As for the women’s semifinals, I think we’ll see the top two seeds get through, Serena and Simona. I just can’t see Roberta Vinci doing anything to get Serena off her game. There will be some nerves but Serena should win in straights.
Flavia Pennetta is going to push Halep, but I think the Romanian pulls it out in three.
With the back-to-back semifinals and finals because of rain, if Halep does go three sets that should help Serena in the final over a weary Halep. Simona’s played a lot of tennis and losing that day off could really hurt her in the final. We’ll see.
ESPN has full coverage of the semifinals on Friday starting at 11am.
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