Wimbledon 2012: Men’s semifinal preview
July 6, 2012 · Print This Article
by: Tom Cochrane
Serena Williams set a Wimbledon record and equalled a WTA Tour tournament record by serving 24 aces against Victoria Azarenka in their semi-final showdown on Day 10. The sublime serving display propelled Williams to a straight sets victory and gives the American a chance to claim her fifth Wimbledon crown tomorrow.
Day 10 Recap
While Azarenka was gunning for her first Wimbledon final and also looking to reclaim the world number one ranking from Maria Sharapova, Williams was out to show the tennis world that early exits at this year’s Australian Open and French Open do not mean that she is a spent force in the women’s game.
Using raw power and exquisite placement on her serve, Williams held serve easily throughout the first set and capitalised on an early break to capture the set 6-3. The second set was a more competitive affair, as Azarenka showed her fighting qualities, coming from a break down to force the set into a tiebreaker. There, only a couple of points separated the players but Williams edged out her Belarusian opponent, sealing the win in appropriate fashion with her twenty-fourth ace of the match.
In the other semi-final, Agnieszka Radwanska became the first Polish player to make the final of a Grand Slam singles tournament in more than 70 years. The third-seeded Radwanska, who can become world number one if she manages to defeat Williams in tomorrow’s final, looked in trouble in the opening set against the hard-hitting Angelique Kerber. The eighth-seeded German claimed an early break to lead 3-1 before Radwanska settled down and reeled off 5 successive games to take the opening set.
Looking noticeably more composed with the first set under her belt, Radwanska was a model of consistency in the second set as Kerber struggled to replicate the high standard of hitting that enabled her to take down Kim Clijsters and Sabine Lisicki.
Radwanska took the second set 6-4 to claim her biggest victory to date, before a coughing fit meant that her celebratory press conference was forced to be cut short. Let’s hope the Pole catches her breath before the final, as she will need to use all of her energy to upset 4-time Wimbledon champion Williams.
Today is men’s semi-finals day at the All England Club, and my predictions for the matches are set out below.
Match of the Day – Day 11
1. Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic
Although they have played 26 times previously, this is the first grass-court encounter between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Up until last year, I would have said that 6-time Wimbledon champion Federer has the edge on grass, but Djokovic proved by winning Wimbledon last year that he has what it takes to win on any surface, including grass.
Federer leads their head-to-head record 14 wins to 12, but the Swiss star is a miserable 1-6 against Djokovic since the start of 2011. That statistic is a little misleading, however, given that Federer had match points against the Serb in New York last year, and had plenty of opportunities when the pair met in Paris this year. Federer’s game matches up well against Djokovic and the third seed knows he’s always got a chance against the world number one.
On grass, sets can be decided by a mere few points, so there’s room for Federer to cause an upset if he can execute well on the big points. He needs to serve well against Djokovic, who is the best returner in the game, and the Swiss maestro needs to do what he did very effectively early on in their US Open clash last year, which is to target the Djokovic forehand wing and open up the backhand wing for finishing off points. If Federer rallies too much to the backhand wing of the top seed (Djokovic’s better side), then the Serb will most probably get on top of the point and dictate play.
Whoever wins this match will be a heavy favourite in the final, so a lot is riding on this match. For Federer, the implications of a win in the final are monumental – he could claim his first Grand Slam in 30 months, reclaim the world number one ranking and equal Pete Sampras‘ records for Wimbledon victories and weeks spent as world number one on the ATP Tour.
It’s hard to go past Djokovic in this match – his record in winning 4 of the last 6 majors has given the Serb abundant self-belief and he has an incredible ability to play his best tennis on the biggest points. But I think this encounter will be much closer than the recent meeting between the players in Paris. I’ll take Djokovic by a whisker, but I think this one could go either way. Djokovic in 5.
2. Andy Murray vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Andy Murray has an impressive record against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, having beaten the Frenchman in 5 of their 6 career meetings, including a win on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon last year. But can the Scot handle the enormous amount of pressure that has been piled on him by the British media and public?
On the one hand, Murray should be accustomed to being in the spotlight, having spent the last 5 or 6 years as the only real force in British tennis. On the other hand, Nadal’s surprise second round defeat has meant that the expectations for Murray at Wimbledon this year have increased significantly, with everyone in Britain (including Murray himself, most likely) now thinking the fourth seed has a very good chance of making the final.
The good news for Murray is that his game has been thoroughly tested and examined in his run to the semi-finals. Right from round 1, Murray has had to play one difficult opponent after another, and he has come through all of these matches, including a very tight quarter-final against the feisty Spaniard David Ferrer, stronger and more match-fit. Tsonga has had some decent matches as well, with Mardy Fish and Philipp Kohlschreiber testing the fifth seed in the round of 16 and the quarter-finals respectively, but he’s managed to slip under the radar a lot more than Murray has.
Tsonga is an exceptionally skilled and flamboyant tennis player, who feeds off his passion and feel for the game. He’s capable of hitting glorious winners, but is also liable to make poor-quality, low-percentage decisions at critical moments. At his best, he can take down anyone on the ATP Tour – he has beaten Nadal, Federer, Murray and Djokovic in Grand Slams over the years – but he’s also prone to making a bundle of unforced errors and crashing out to lesser-known players.
For Murray, the key in this match will be to stay composed and consistent as Tsonga’s level of play ebbs and flows. He must expect Tsonga to hit unbelievable winners, but in such circumstances Murray must stay calm and take his chances when the flashy Frenchman’s execution goes astray. If Murray can serve well, target Tsonga‘s weaker backhand wing and stay focused in the moment, rather than thinking about the enormity of the situation, then I think he will be too consistent for the fifth seed down the stretch. Murray in 4.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.