July 27, 2015
So tell me, are you still enjoying this down time in the tennis calendar?
Make sure you do make the most of it and see your family and loved ones, because before you know it tennis will be right back and you seemingly won’t have a minute to yourself.
This week, I complete what I started last week and look at the five players who have most dominated the three Grand Slams on the WTA Tour this season. Your first guess is to say that it’s been a wide-open season beyond the obvious one name but, as you’ll see, four other legitimate favourites have emerged.
1) Serena Williams
Welcome to yet another season in women’s tennis dominated by the very best player in the World. As odd as it may sound, Serena Williams is still getting better and is utterly alone at the top, with still only one non-walkover loss in 2015. She has just completed the second “Serena Slam” of her career at age 33 and will complete the calendar-year Slam next month if she can only win the US Open, in her native country for, oh I don’t know, the fourth year in a row.
You say that one day, her reign at the top will stop, but don’t act so sure: the tour is currently so devoid of talent that perhaps only retirement will stop her.
2) Maria Sharapova
Because wherever Serena goes, so must Maria Sharapova. At this point, it’s pretty apparent that the American exists mostly as the kryptonite of the Russian, or perhaps we should see things the opposite way: that by now, Sharapova exists as but the final stepping-stone in Serena Williams’s quest for excellence and greatness.
But continue to try is what Sharapova will keep doing, because she has no other choice. At this rate, she may never beat Williams again, but she is still a clear No. 2 on the WTA Tour. Things could be worse.
3) Garbine Muguruza
If the future of women’s tennis has a face, it very well could be Garbine Muguruza’s. The Spaniard followed up her claim to fame of having beaten Williams at Roland Garros in 2014 with an appearance in the Wimbledon final at the beginning of July.
Serena Williams praised her young opponent after beating her at Wimbledon, saying that she would win a few Grand Slams before long; most agree. The 21-year-old has all the tools and all the shots, and all signs point to her also having the mental fortitude and self-belief necessary to dominate for a long time.
4) Madison Keys
Or maybe it will be Madison Keys who dominates the sport once Serena Williams has retired? The 20-year-old has surprised at Grand Slams this year, with her three best results of her career at the first three majors of the season; she entered the Top 20 for the first time in February just after her semifinal in Melbourne.
Coached by Lindsey Davenport, Keys is tall and takes control of rallies behind her powerful serve and forehands: it’s not a coincidence that her third-round result on clay at the French Open this year is much worse than what she managed on the hard courts of Australia and the grass of Wimbledon (i.e. a quarterfinal loss). It bodes well for the US Open, played on hard courts, for the native of Illinois.
5) Timea Bacsinszky
Maybe we shouldn’t expect so much from Timea Bacsinszky, the Swiss who prefers the slower surface of Roland Garros to others; for that reason, it isn’t a surprise that she performed better in France, making the semifinal, than she did in Australia (i.e. she reached the third round) and at Wimbledon (i.e. she made the quarterfinals).
And yet, everything should be seen as a surprise. The veteran of 10 seasons, and once upon a time among the youngsters upon whom tennis invested so much, was this close of quitting tennis for good. That was in 2013: she was 23 years old and her home felt like a “prison”, she said.
In 2015, Bacsinszky is playing tennis because she wants to. And maybe that’s why she is winning her matches.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
July 20, 2015
There is scarcely any down time during the tennis season, but perhaps this qualifies as one.
The Australian Open, and Miami and Indian Wells Masters 1000 back-to-back seem to have happened in a different season altogether; and no sooner had Novak Djokovic’s dream had gone up in flames at Roland Garros that he had redeemed himself on the holy grounds of Wimbledon. Time waits for no one in tennis.
But this month? With apologies to the organizing committee of all tournaments on the calendar this month, July mostly serves to better anticipate the slate in August.
Such is the tennis season that you almost never have the time to reflect and ponder the meaning of what has just unfolded. But sometimes, you need to take the time. You need to understand how you have arrived where you are to better see where you are headed. For the next two columns, including this one, I will highlight the five men and women players who have marked the Grand Slam tennis season until this point.
1) Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is certainly the man, but don’t believe me only because I said so on Canadian television. (#Humblebrag, I know. I know.) The Serb has been the best player on the ATP World Tour for the better part of five seasons, reaching at least the finals of 15 of the previous 19 Grand Slam tournaments. He is 47-3 this year, including 17-2 against members of the Top 10 and 7-1 against those in the Top 5. If not for the next man on the list, the Djoker would also be going for the calendar-year Grand Slam at the US Open in August.
As Rafael Nadal has succumbed to injuries, and Roger Federer has faded to age, it’s Djokovic who has emerged to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible in tennis.
2) Stanislas Wawrinka
But of course, Stanislas Wawrinka had to ruin history for all of us. Wawrinka lived up to both of his monikers in Paris, being very much the man and an animal possessed as he spoiled Djokovic’s bid to add a first Roland Garros title to his resume. The win gave Wawrinka his revenge on Djokovic, who had cut short his title defense in Australia in January because winning the Australian Open is just what the Djoker does.
3) Andy Murray
Maybe you feel for Andy Murray? The theoretical fourth wheel of the big four when the big four was a thing, Murray has entered the somewhat latter phase of his career but still does not appear to be capable of meeting the expectations that the tennis world has for him. We all would love so much for him to become tennis’s next great champion, and there’s a version of this universe where he would be just that if not for Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, but alas Murray is so incredibly Andy Murray. He’s got all the shots, but he’s playing in the golden age of the sport. He’s both underrated and overrated. He’s Andy Murray.
4) Roger Federer
Has Roger Federer become a sort of rich man’s David Ferrer? For years, Ferrer was the little engine that could, the one player who could never seriously threaten the four great champions ranked ahead of him, but also the one player who barely ever lost to anyone not from the Top 4. Now, Ferrer is 33 years old and our expectations for him have appropriately been lowered.
In 2015, Federer is entrenched as the second best player on the ATP World Tour and yet, he has one Grand Slam title since 2010. He’s still good for the occasional final here and there, but the one formerly known as King Roger seems overmatched in the bigger matches now; he’s also, quite possibly, just the second best player from Switzerland.
But he’s 33 years old and soon turning 34. Maybe it’s time to start expecting a little less from the man.
5) The lack of Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal’s best results this season have been two quarterfinals. At Wimbledon, the Spaniard lost in the second round, but an early Nadal loss in England has become so inconsequential. What was most telling is Nadal’s loss at the French Open: at the tournament that he has dominated so outrageously for the past decade, Nadal was overmatched and outclassed. What should have been such a landmark achievement didn’t feel as such, because Djokovic was too good for the Spaniard, even at Roland Garros.
We hope that Nadal fans have the stomach to endure what could very well be the new normal for their guy.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
July 13, 2015
And then there was one.
Serena Williams started the 2015 season as the favourite at the Australian Open, much like she has at just about any point in her career. She won the year’s first Major, much like she had five prior times already. And much of the season has unfolded following this same script, with the best player in the world winning four tournaments.
Most importantly, among the four titles she has won this season are the three first Grand Slam tournaments of the season. After Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final, and Lucie Safarova at the French Open, it was Garbine Muguruza’s turn to fall against the younger of the Williams sisters in two sets of 6-4 at Wimbledon.
Williams was far from perfect in the final, starting slowly but finally emerging with the win. “It feels so good,” she said after winning. “It’s been a little while. I didn’t even know it was over, she was fighting so hard.”
Fighting so hard, Muguruza certainly did—odds are that she will win a Wimbledon title or two before long; Williams said as much in her comments after the match. Indeed, the future is bright for the young Spaniard but Williams’s present is right now. And it’s as bright as ever.
Only once has Serena stepped on a court and lost this season, for the Mutua Madrid Open semifinal against Petra Kvitova. She has two other losses in her track record in 2015, but they don’t show up on her results page on the WTA Tour website because they were walkovers.
She has lost once in 2015, but she hasn’t lost at a Grand Slam in over a year. Yes, Williams is currently riding a 28-match unbeaten streak at the four most prestigious tournaments in the world, but again she has been far from perfect during the streak. Nine times she has needed three sets to win, and perhaps this is where her incredible and unparalleled experience has helped her most: per Greg Garber of ESPN, Williams won the third set by an average score of 6-2 over these nine matches.
If you need seven wins to win a major title, then this means that this Wimbledon title gives Williams the second “Serena Slam” of her career, only this time she will look to win a fifth major tournament in a row. Unlike her first Serena Slam in 2002 and 2003, she has a chance to win the four Grand Slams of 2015, because it’s the first time she has ever won the first three majors in a season. Quite apropos, she said that, “I’m having so much fun. I never dreamed I’d still be out here.”
We’ve already praised her for so many things over the years, but let’s also praise her efficiency: a win at the US Open at the end of the summer would tie her with Steffi Graf for most Grand Slam titles in history with 22, and give her the first calendar-year Slam since Graf in 1988. And it would also be the 69th overall title of her career, still “just” good enough for fifth in history: Serena Williams wins and has won tournaments, yes, but she mostly and especially wins Grand Slams.
Look at all that she has already accomplished this season and in her career all around the world. Now, she just needs to bring it all home.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
July 13, 2015
Novak Djokovic is the 2015 Wimbledon men’s singles champion, the Serb downing Roger Federer in 4 sets to claim the third Wimbledon crown of his career and his ninth Grand Slam title overall.
Day 13 Recap
After stunning Andy Murray with a sensational serving display on Friday, Roger Federer came roaring out of the blocks on Sunday, breaking top seed Djokovic to establish a 4-2 lead. But the Swiss star lost serve to hand the break straight back, and then squandered a couple of set points on the Djokovic serve. Those missed opportunities came back to haunt Federer when the first set progressed to a tiebreaker, with world number one Djokovic completely dominating. The Serb collected the breaker for the loss of just one point, taking the set on a Federer double fault.
The second set was a role reversal of the first, with Federer the one consistently under pressure. Again, a tiebreaker was called upon the separate the players. Djokovic managed to amass a total of 7 set points but Federer refused to surrender, the 17-time major winner eventually taking the breaker 12 points to 10 to level the match at a set apiece. That sent the capacity, pro-Federer crowd on Centre Court into hysterics, but Djokovic shrugged off the loss of the second set to immediately put Federer under pressure at the start of the pivotal third set. The second seed managed to fend off a couple of break points in the opening game of the third set, but a woeful forehand in the third game saw Djokovic grab the break. From there, the Serb kept focused during a short rain delay and maintained his advantage to close out the set, 6-4, and move within a set of successfully defending his title.
The fourth set saw Djokovic continually peppering Federer’s toes with pinpoint returns, as the Swiss star struggled to recreate his serving feats of Friday. A break in the fifth game of the set put Djokovic within sight of the finish line, and he finished it off with another break in the ninth game, eventually collecting a 7-6(1) 6-7(10) 6-4 6-3 victory in 2 hours and 56 minutes. Having made just 11 unforced errors in the match against Murray, Federer’s tally of 35 unforced errors against Djokovic told the story – the 33 year old being continually required to force the play against the world’s best defender. Djokovic, meanwhile, produced his best tennis of the fortnight, spanking 46 winners against just 16 unforced errors.
For Djokovic, it was the perfect response to his shock defeat to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final 5 weeks ago, the Serb proving once again that he is undoubtedly the best player on the planet at this point in time. For Federer, it was an ultimately unsuccessful end to a very positive tournament, but if the second seed continues to play like he has over the past couple of weeks then he will keep putting himself in contention at the business end of majors for several years to come.
That’s it for the coverage of this year’s Wimbledon championships. I trust you’ve enjoyed the coverage. I’ll be back later in the year to cover the US Open, but in the meantime you can follow all of the tennis news on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
July 12, 2015
Welcome the TennisConnected Podcast for 2015!
Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back to review the 2015 Wimbledon Championships during their latest Podcast.
In a rematch of last year’s men’s final, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer produced glorious tennis before the Serb prevailed. We discuss Djokovic’s victory and the incredible Slam streak of Serena Williams and her 21st career Major. Will the American complete the Calender Year Grand Slam in NYC?
As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.
July 12, 2015
Wimbledon 2015—London, England
No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic defeated No. 2 ranked Roger Federer in four gripping sets to win his third Wimbledon title on Sunday. Claiming his victory by a 7-6(1), 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-3 scoreline, Djokovic hit 13 aces, won 74 percent of his first serve points and broke serve on four occasions. Needing nearly three hours to notch his title, Djokovic now stands with nine Grand Slam titles.
Federer, who was aiming for his 18th Major title, lost to Djokovic for the second straight year in the championship round at SW19.
Both players are next slated to play at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in early August.
July 12, 2015
Serena Williams is the 2015 ladies’ singles champion, the American winning her third major of the year, a sixth Wimbledon title and the twenty-first Grand Slam of her illustrious career with a hard-fought win over Garbine Muguruza.
Today sees Roger Federer try to avenge his 5 set loss to Novak Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final, the Swiss star looking to claim his eighth Wimbledon crown as top seeded Djokovic shoots for a third title at the All England Club. Read on for my predictions for today’s blockbuster final.
Day 12 Recap
Twenty-one year old Muguruza was playing in her maiden Grand Slam final, but the Spaniard seemed unfazed by the occasion, breaking the world number one in her opening service game as she opened up a 4-2 lead. On a sunny day in London, it took a while for Williams to warm up, as Muguruza showed that she is a star of the future with powerful hitting off both wings.
The famed Williams serve was particularly rusty as the outset, with a string of double faults indicating that even superstars feel the pressure. But the top seed avoided going down a double break and gradually lifted her first serve percentage, reeling off 4 games in a row from 4-2 down to claim the first set, 6-4.
Winning the first set seemed to settle the world number one as she stormed out to a 5-1 lead in the second set, at one stage stringing together 12 successive points. Muguruza appeared helpless to stop Williams’ quest for a sixth title in London, but the Spaniard refused to wilt, breaking to love and then breaking again as Williams tightened up in sight of the finish line and an historic victory. But, as she has done so many times in the past, Williams gathered herself and got the job done, breaking Muguruza in the tenth game to secure a 6-4 6-4 win in 83 minutes.
For Williams, the win keeps alive her hopes of a calendar Grand Slam and puts her within one title of Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 majors. Even Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams is approachable, given Williams’ dominance in recent times.
For Muguruza, it was a fantastic tournament and the Spaniard would have won a legion of new fans with her gritty performance yesterday. I’ve been saying all tournament that Muguruza is a star of the future but I think that comment needs to be clarified: Muguruza’s time is now and she will be a serious contender at all of the majors going forward.
Match of the Day – Day 13
Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer
World number one Novak Djokovic is the defending champion and has swept virtually all before him in 2015 – his only loss in Grand Slam play coming at the hands of a red-hot Stan Wawrinka in Paris. Accordingly, the Serb deserves to start this final as the favourite, despite some lingering concerns over his left shoulder that required treatment during his semi-final win over Richard Gasquet.
But there are a number of reasons for Federer fans to have legitimate hope heading in to this final. The Swiss star was in scintillating form in the semi-finals, simply outclassing an in-form Murray with an exceptional serving display. If Federer plays (and, in particular, serves) as well as he did against Murray, then he has a very good chance to win an eighteenth major title today.
After a number of warm days in London, today’s weather is much cooler and there is a chance that rain will force the tournament organisers to close the roof on Centre Court. Either way, the cooler conditions will help Federer, as they allow the ball to travel quicker and so will help the second seed finish points quicker. Against a player with the best defensive and retrieval skills in the sport, that is a significant benefit. A bit of rain will also mean that the ball skids and slides through a lot more, something that will make Federer’s slice backhand more potent and assist his forays to the net.
Finally, the match-up against Djokovic is one that Federer actually likes. Unlike against Nadal, who bullies the Federer backhand relentlessly with his monster forehand, Federer is always in the match against Djokovic, even if the Serb ultimately finds a way to win. Federer upset Djokovic in the final in Dubai earlier this year, a strong serving performance getting him over the line in fast conditions.
Overall, I think Djokovic’s 2015 form makes him a slight favourite but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Federer pull off the upset. Either way, tennis fans should be in for a treat. Djokovic in 5.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the men’s final and I will be back to wrap up the final and the tournament tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
July 10, 2015
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will meet in Sunday’s men’s final, a rematch of last year’s final, after the top seed dismissed Richard Gasquet and Federer turned in a vintage performance to down Andy Murray in straight sets.
Today sees Serena Williams attempt to claim her sixth Wimbledon crown against first-time Grand Slam finalist Garbine Muguruza. My views on that match are set out below.
Day 11 Recap
World number one Djokovic was first on Centre Court, the Serb entering the match as a red-hot favourite against Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman came out firing, hitting a number of scintillating backhand winners, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. But Djokovic remained firm, and at 2-2 in the first tiebreaker pounced on a couple of loose shots from Gasquet to claim it 7 points to 2.
Winning the first set seemed to settle the Serb, Djokovic securing an early break in the second set and maintaining his advantage to take a commanding 2 sets to love lead, despite being bothered by a stiff left shoulder that required attention from the trainer on two occasions.
Gasquet battled valiantly in the third set but was unable to make any inroads on the Djokovic serve, the two-time champion eventually wrapping up a 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4 win in 142 minutes.
The second semi-final was eagerly anticipated, with Federer and Murray resuming a storied rivalry. But the match turned out to be largely one-way traffic, with Federer producing a sensational serving performance to win a tenth semi-final at Wimbledon. The Swiss star landed 76 percent of his first serves and won 84 percent of his first service points, drilling 56 winners to boot.
After a late break gave Federer the first set, 7-5, the real turning point in the match came in the tenth and twelfth games of the second set. Down 4-5, 0-40, Murray eventually held after a marathon game that spanned close to 15 minutes, only for Federer to hold to love and then break in the twelfth game to take a 2 sets to love lead.
Whilst the British fans tried to rouse Murray in the third set, Federer’s sublime serving meant Murray got very few chances to put the second seed under any real pressure. Eventually, Murray could give no more, succumbing in the tenth game of the third set as Federer recorded a 7-5 7-5 6-4 win to give himself a chance at a record eighth Wimbledon crown.
Match of the Day – Day 12
There is no doubt that Serena Williams enters this match as the overwhelming favourite. The world number one is unbeaten in Grand Slam play in 2015 and faces an opponent entering her maiden major final. But Garbine Muguruza has beaten Serena before, and importantly it was at a Grand Slam: last year’s French Open, where she defeated the American in convincing fashion.
Williams has won the pair’s other two meetings, but the win in Paris will give the Spaniard the belief that she can pull off the upset today. The pair played in Melbourne earlier this year and whilst Williams ultimately prevailed, it was not without a fight. Muguruza has the power to match Williams from the back of the court and playing at the end of the tournament, when the courts are harder and more dried out, is of benefit to the Spaniard.
Overall, I think Serena’s killer serve and superior grass-court and big match experience will get her across the line. If Muguruza is tight then the match could be over quickly. But if she can settle down quickly an upset is not outside the realms of possibility. I’m backing Serena to win in a tight two-setter (and keep alive hopes of a Serena Slam) but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her stretched to 3 sets. Williams in 2.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
July 9, 2015
Garbine Muguruza will contest her first ever Grand Slam final on Saturday, after outlasting Agnieszka Radwanska in 3 sets on Day 10. Standing in the way of a maiden major title is none other than world number one Serena Williams, who will be looking to secure a sixth Wimbledon crown on Saturday after proving too strong for Maria Sharapova.
Friday is men’s semi-finals day at SW19, with Novak Djokovic squaring off against Richard Gasquet before Roger Federer takes on Andy Murray in a much-anticipated encounter. Read on for my predictions as to how those matches will unfold.
Day 10 Recap
Muguruza may have been playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final, but the Spaniard showed no signs of nerves early on, overwhelming Radwanska with an onslaught of powerful winners off both wings. The twentieth seed claimed the opening set, 6-2, and when she moved ahead a break in the second set it appeared as though the match was as good as over. But former Wimbledon finalist Radwanska started mixing up her shots and capitalised on some tension on Muguruza’s part, the Pole reeling off 6 consecutive games as she moved the Spaniard around the court and out of position.
When Radwanska broke serve at the beginning of the deciding set, she looked to be the firm favourite to progress to the final but, showing composure beyond her years, Muguruza stuck to her guns, breaking back and then firing a backhand winner to go up 4-2. A visibly tight Muguruza shrugged off two break points and a controversial challenge from Radwanska in the final game, ultimately prevailing 6-2 3-6 6-3.
Maria Sharapova entered her semi-final against Serena Williams holding a miserable 2-17 win-loss record against the top seed and, sadly for Sharapova fans, the match followed an utterly predictable script. Williams improved her career record in major semi-finals to an astonishing 25-3 with a 6-2 6-4 victory, the American sending down 13 aces to Sharapova’s 2. Once again, the second serve was Sharapova’s Achilles heel, the Russian winning just 29 percent of her second service points.
Matches of the Day – Day 11
1. Novak Djokovic vs. Richard Gasquet
Armed with a swashbuckling backhand and full of confidence after wins over the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov and Stan Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet enters this match with very little to lose. The Frenchman is the clear underdog against the world number one and two-time champion Djokovic, and he will need to execute at an extremely high level if he is to cause the upset.
Djokovic has claimed victory in all but one of the pair’s 12 previous clashes, with Gasquet’s sole win coming way back in 2007. After a scare against Anderson, Djokovic was all business against Cilic in the quarter-finals, and I think he will simply be too strong and too solid overall for Gasquet in this one. The Serb knows that a final against either Murray or Federer will be highly demanding, and he will want to conserve as much energy as possible by finishing off Gasquet swiftly. Djokovic in 3.
2. Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray
This match-up is almost too close to call. The players have split their two previous matches on grass, with Federer beating Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon final and Murray claiming revenge at the London Olympics not long after. Overall, Federer holds a narrow 12-11 advantage after winning 4 of the last 5 clashes between the pair. Federer humbled Murray at the season-ending championships, the Scot claiming just one game for the match, but that encounter will have no bearing on today’s match-up. After struggling last year to get back to his best tennis following back surgery, Murray has been a model of consistency on court this season and seems very happy off the court as well, having married long-term girlfriend Kim Sears earlier this year.
Both players have cruised through their respective sections of the draw with relative ease, and each will be looking to lift a gear in this clash. Federer is an incredible 9 for 9 in previous Wimbledon semi-finals and the All England Club most definitely represents his best chance of claiming another major title. Conditions for match are forecast to be warm and sunny, and I think this will suit Murray, with Federer preferring the faster conditions that come in cooler conditions.
Whilst not much separates the pair, I sense that Murray is nearing his peak whilst Federer, though still performing at an incredibly high level, isn’t quite the player that he used to be. With the crowd behind him, I think the Scot will finally breaking Federer’s semi-finals streak in London. Murray in 5.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
July 8, 2015
The men’s semi-finals are set, after big guns Federer, Murray and Djokovic bulldozed their way into the final four. They will be joined by Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who upset French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in a pulsating 5-setter on Day 9.
Day 9 Recap
On a day which saw intermittent showers frustrate fans and players alike, former champion Andy Murray remained focused throughout his quarter-final against Vasek Pospisil. Cheered on by a capacity crowd, Murray was sharper on the big points, with Pospisil’s lack of experience at this stage of a major, plus the cumulative effects of playing a string of long singles and doubles matches, ultimately counting against the Canadian.
Murray’s straight sets win set up a semi-final showdown against 7-time champion Roger Federer, who was just as convincing in his straight sets win over Gilles Simon. The Frenchman has pushed Federer all the way in Grand Slam matches in the past, but Federer was on song from the outset of this clash, breaking Simon in his opening service game and never looking back. Ultimately, the Swiss superstar recorded a 6-3 7-5 6-2 win in 94 minutes to move into the tenth Wimbledon semi-final of his illustrious career.
In the top half of the draw, top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic was pitted against last year’s US Open winner Marin Cilic. After being pushed to the brink of elimination by Kevin Anderson in the fourth round, the world number one was in no mood for another marathon, breaking Cilic in each set to collect a 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory. The win represented victory number 650 in Djokovic’s career and puts him just a pair of wins away from defending the title he claimed at the All England Club last year.
With the first three semi-finals being relatively one-sided affairs, all attention soon focused on the cliffhanger that was evolving in the quarter-final between fourth seed Wawrinka and twenty-first seed Gasquet. The Frenchman, looking to make a second Wimbledon semi-final eight years after his first, started promisingly, claiming the first set before going down 0-3 in the second. Gasquet fought back, only to hand Wawrinka the set courtesy of a double fault. The third set was one-way traffic in Wawrinka’s direction, before the Swiss star returned Gasquet’s earlier favour, double-faulting to hand the Frenchman set number 4.
In the deciding set, Gasquet looked to have clinched the win when he broke for a 5-3 lead. But the Frenchman, sometimes shaky at the critical moments, was unable to serve it out, and the players continued to slug it out before Wawrinka finally succumbed in the twentieth game of the fifth set, Gasquet claiming a 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-4 11-9 win in 3 hours and 28 minutes. Gasquet, who has only won 3 of 19 Grand Slam round of 16 matches, improved to 3-0 in Grand Slam quarter-finals and will now face top seed Djokovic for a place in Sunday’s final.
Matches of the Day – Day 10
1. Garbine Muguruza vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Can rising star Garbine Muguruza emulate the feats of her countrywomen Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez and progress to the Wimbledon final, or will Pole Agnieszka Radwanska work her way through to a second final at the All England Club? Radwanska did well to wear down big hitter Madison Keys in the quarter-finals, and I think the Pole will need to adopt a similar strategy if she is to beat Muguruza who, like Keys, is a powerful baseliner and a star of the future.
Muguruza has swept aside all before her in the tournament to date, beating the likes of Kerber and Wozniacki en route to the semi-finals. The Spaniard seems pretty level-headed for a young player, and I think she has the temperament and the self-belief to claim the victory in this one. The match is on her racquet and, unlike Keys, who was unable to put Radwanska away, I think Muguruza will simply be too powerful and too consistent for the former finalist. Muguruza in 3.
2. Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova
As has been well documented, former champion Maria Sharapova has an utterly woeful head-t0-head record against world number one Serena Williams, having beaten the American in just 2 of their 19 career meetings. But, if Sharapova should take confidence from anywhere, it is in London. After all, it was at the All England Club in 2004 that Sharapova truly announced herself to the tennis world, stunning Williams in straight sets to capture her maiden Grand Slam title.
Since that historic win, Williams has taken extreme pleasure in defeating Sharapova over and over again. For the Russian, her weak serve compared to Williams’ tremendous serve is the biggest difference, but the fact that Sharapova hits a hard, flat ball is another problem – that sort of ball is exactly what Williams thrives on. Being the consummate professional, Sharapova will scrap and fight for everything in this semi-final, and will endeavour to shriek and grunt her way to victory. But like so many of the contests between the pair, I think Williams will be just that little bit too good. Williams in 2.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.