Tennis Elbow: The new head coach of Andy Murray

July 28, 2014

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks at Andy Murray’s decision to hire Amélie Mauresmo.

Andy Murray has won 36 of 48 matches in 2014, but he will wake up this morning on the very cusp of leaving the Top 10 for the first time in six years.

The Brit moved from No. 11 to No. 9 in the ATP World Tour rankings on July 7, 2008, and he’s been a mainstay among the 10 better players since. Of course, that’s not exactly right, because it’s selling him short. For six years now, Murray has been quite comfortably the fourth wheel of the Big 4 engine that has carried the sport for all these years now.

(And again, it’s not totally accurate to say “Big 4.” Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will go down in history as two of the five greatest players, Novak Djokovic as one of the 10 best, but Murray? He’ll be remembered, sure, but just not as kindly.)

Six years later, Murray may just have come back around for the first time. But of course, things are much different for him. He’s won Grand Slam tournaments now, including one in his own backyard at the Cathedral of tennis. He’s reached a career-high of No. 2. And, as we covered, he’s been in the top 10 for six full years.

Murray is different now, including for the fact that he has a different coach. In the spring, Ivan Lendl quit in a move that was widely publicized, though it also has remained unexplained. (We can’t be certain, but we feel confident saying that Murray probably hoped, for a fleeting second, that Lendl might have cracked a smile as he told his pupil the decision. That would have let him know he was kidding. But Lendl doesn’t smile, even when he does.)

Well it took him long to replace Lendl, but Murray finally did. With Amélie Mauresmo.

That’s where it gets fun, right? Because I hadn’t managed to find a time to discuss the topic, and because Murray somehow decided to prolong their working relationship beyond his disappointing Wimbledon title defense, we can have fun.

I will not pretend to have any kind of #HotSportsTake angle on the topic. I love the hire, but it’s not strictly for reasons related to tennis. For the little that I know about tennis coaches, I believe that she does deserve the position. Her playing career was incredibly successful, with two Grand Slam titles and a No. 1 ranking in 2004. Mauresmo has also been a coach before, guiding France in the Fed Cup and, most importantly, Marion Bartoli to her lone Grand Slam title.

But you don’t have to agree, of course. However, if you don’t believe she should be Andy Murray’s coach, you should have a sort of reasoning that goes beyond “well she’s a woman and he’s a man.”

This partnership can be meaningful in this way, showing that women have a place in a sport that too often thinks they are below, but it needs to be about more than just a principle. Just because Murray is among the most vocal in men’s tennis about his support of the women’s game doesn’t mean that he should hire her. That’s not how you win tennis matches and, as noble as he may be for anything, Murray first must win tennis matches.

That’s something he hasn’t done, or hasn’t done well and up to his standards this year. He knows that and still, he appointed the 35-year-old as his head coach. It’s a big risk, so it must mean he is positive Mauresmo will help, no?

Maybe Murray responds better to women, and his mother has definitely coached him for some time when he was younger, but I’m not his confidant so I don’t actually know that he does. It does seem apparent, though, that the 27-year-old responds better to calm rather than fire. (How do I know? Because he won with Lendl, who scoffs at the fun paint is having when it dries.) Mauresmo fits that mold, too.

He’s a man and she’s a woman, but why does it have to matter? If Mauresmo is qualified for the job, which she appears to be, then she deserves it. Murray will win matches, or he won’t. And it’ll be more on him than on her.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: The last laugh of Ivo Karlovic

July 21, 2014

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon rejoices at the advent of a new modern legend.

The tennis world continues its post-Wimbledon hangover, but that doesn’t mean that the potential topics for this column are few and far between.

This week in Bogota for the Claro Open Colombia, those of us who were paying attention—and really, what else would you watch in sports at this time of the year? Baseball? Yeah, okay—got to see the new David versus Goliath story.

In the second round of the tournament, Dudi Sela took on Ivo Karlovic. And thus was born the modern day version of this great legend.

Watch it here.

In this scenario, the Crotian is Goliath. Though he’s never really had the results worthy of a legendary warrior (i.e. he’s much, much more Shawn Bradley in this scenario), Karlovic is the Goliath of the ATP World Tour. In no small part (get it?) because he is listed as six-foot-11 and very well could be even taller. Karlovic is currently ranked No. 31, a little higher than his career high of No. 14 from 2008, and his career record stands at 251-229—which, you know, is good enough. So again, if the 35-year-old is to be the great Philistine warrior in this scenario, it’s all physically.

And the Israeli Sela is David. The 29-year-old is listed at five-foot-nine and is currently ranked No. 94. On tour, he’s been mostly average, if that, with a 97-134 career record. In short (HA!), he’s the average man, the forgotten player. And for that, he’s perfect for our David.

But because legends evolve and change over time, this version of the story is different. In our story, Goliath beats David by the score of 7-6 (8) and 7-6 (5)—but thankfully, the score doesn’t matter in this new legend. (And obviously, Sela isn’t the David who’s supposed to be the future King of Israel, nor is this a battle for Israel. Especially now, let’s not go there. There are too many senseless killings already.)

In our story, all we need to worry about is what happened when David embraced Goliath. At the end of the match, the smallish Sela picked up a chair, brought it with him to the net to stand and stood on it to embrace the tallish Karlovic.

In our story, there’s no King of Israel nor is it a foreshadowing of the Catholic Church over Satan. It’s just two guys playing a tennis match, and Goliath beating David—as he usually does. It’s just two guys embracing and having a good laugh and treating this tennis match for the relatively minor one that it is. They probably went for a beer afterward, making this my kind of match.

And before we close this legend, one last tip—do give Karlovic a follow on Twitter (@ivokarlovic), because he may be the best athlete at it. His bio reads, “i do what i do best and bunch of other stuff”. In an English that’s just broken enough to be adorable, the man will entertain you about personal tennis milestones, the Miami Heat, twist the knife deeper in Brazil’s collective soul, offer live tennis commentary, or simply give dietary options. (He’s also great at jokes.)

Karlovic is the real MVP. At least on Twitter.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: The kids are all right

July 14, 2014

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon rejoices at the rise of a few talented youngsters in tennis.

Just because you’re too young to know that you shouldn’t be there doesn’t mean that you don’t belong.

Because of how this year’s Wimbledon ended, with one of the better men’s finals of the past decade (i.e. which has been full of such wonderful finals), it’s easy to overlook one main takeaway and marvel at Roger Federer’s and Novak Djokovic’s brilliance and brilliant duel.

What about these kids, right?

This year at Wimbledon, some of the younger players, who had showcased so much promise already, finally gave their fans some tangible proof to that hope. First, it was Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil who, playing in their first event together as doubles partners, captured the title. (It was the first time this happened, a new team winning in their debut together, in 14 years.)

The story of their win, how they decided to team up by text messages and then went on to beat not one, not two, not three, but four seeded teams on their way to a major title, is the type of things that doubles needs—a narrative. (On the other hand, what does it say about this sport when you think that two newbies can capture one of the four biggest titles on their first try and against the best team of all time?)

Still, they brought joie de vivre and recognition to a sport that needs it.

It’s trickier in singles on the ATP World Tour, where Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic can hope for the best all that they want, but must battle against three of the 10 best players in history in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. No one said it would be easy… but it doesn’t have to be this hard either!

At any given tournament, there are only so many matches that they can win before they’re pitted against one member of this trio—and yet in 2014, what has changed is that both Dimitrov and Raonic play these matches like they believe they belong and will win. (They still lose, but that’s beside the point. Belief is the first step toward success.) The Bulgarian and the Canadian reached the semifinal of tennis’s Great Cathedral, a great sign for anyone wondering which players will follow in the footsteps of our current champions. (Nick Kyrgios is also part of this group, though at 19 he could still use some seasoning.)

Of course, it’s on the women’s side that we saw the biggest surprise. Young Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, the player of the 2014 season so far on the WTA Tour with 36 wins and not one, not two, but three Grand Slam semifinals to her name, qualified for the final against Petra Kvitova.

And in the final, we’ll all remember how over-matched she seemed in losing 6-3 and 6-0, a score that is actually probably kinder to her than it should be. Bouchard had had all the answers up to this point in the tournament, but she was clueless against Kvitova. She tried one thing, and when that one thing didn’t work, she tried it again.

It’s alright, she’ll be fine. That’s what we said then, and it’s probably even true. But this is tricky, really. It’d be foolish, of course, to think this is it for the 20-year-old, and in all likelihood she’ll have plenty more time and occasions to win a few Wimbledon titles. Yet, that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a glorious opportunity, here this year, and that she badly got exposed.

Of course, it’s a testament to her great talent and performances, already so early in her career, that we should react in such a way to a disappointing Wimbledon final. “Eugenie Bouchard? Yeah, she’s all right.”

Damn right.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

It’s a Bouchard kind of Summer

July 10, 2014

In my latest article for Tennis Canada, I discuss Eugenie Bouchard’s stellar result at Wimbledon and what the future holds in store for the young Canadian. Here’s an excerpt below.

“How can you not like Genie? She tells it like it is and has charisma to spare. Although I could do without her receiving a new stuffed animal after every win, her appeal to a vast audience is rare to find. From knowing how to take the best #selfie on Tour, Bouchard is well spoken, knows how to dress and most importantly knows how to address the media. Another trait that I look for in an upcoming star is how they react in press conferences. You look at Maria Sharapova or Roger Federer and they eat up the limelight and know exactly what to say at all times. However, you observe someone like David Ferrer and even though he’s had a great career, there’s a reason why he’s seldom featured on a show court (his personality is just not that engaging). Thankfully, though, Eugenie or “Genie in bottle” as Brad Gilbert likes to call her won’t ever have that problem.”

Click here to read the full article: TennisCanada.


Tennis Elbow: Novak Djokovic finally wins again

July 7, 2014

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2014 Wimbledon Grand Slam.

Roger this, Roger that. In the end, it’s Novak who reigns supreme after a thrilling victory in the 2014 Wimbledon final.

How do you regroup instantly? It turns out that you can’t, okay, but how do you regroup quickly and promptly, and will yourself to accomplish seemingly again what had been so close just a moment ago? As ESPN’s Greg Garber put it, once you’ve rolled the great boulder to the top of the mountain and you lose control and see it tumble back down, how do you find the will to start over?

That was Djokovic’s dilemma at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club against Roger Federer. He had chocked the fourth set away, up 5-2 only to somehow lose it on barely a whimper. (And, in the greatest of ironies, a successful Hawkeye challenge from Federer on championship point.) How do you come back from that?

There’s probably no answer beyond, “You just do it, because you’re still on a tennis court, the TV cameras are still broadcasting, you still want the title as much as earlier when it seemed like you had won, and your opponent is still battling.” So you go on. You believe in yourself, and all that self-belief will one day pay off.

Somehow, Djokovic won the 2014 Wimbledon title, overcoming King Roger in three hours and 56 minutes by the score of 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7 and 6-4. And somehow, the scoreline undersells how great this final was—really, this may have been the very best one since the 2008 encounter between Federer and Rafael Nadal. (Though I’m partial to the 2012 Australian Open final between the Djoker and Nadal. But really at this point, the only correct answer is, “We’re spoiled.”)

Both Djokovic and Federer started the match in fifth gear. There was no feeling-out period, because they had already played each other 34 times prior, and there were no nerves due to this being a Grand Slam finals, because they had respectively played 14 and 25 of these already. Not only that, but it was clean tennis. Federer won the first set, then Djokovic the following two, and so on, because they went for their shots and they hit them—the pair combined for more than 140 winners and only 52 unforced errors.

With the win, the Serb accomplished many things. For one, he wakes up today at the top of the ATP World Tour rankings, ahead of Nadal, making him the man and the likely favourite for the remainder of the year. (Or at least, until he moves down.)

The title also moves him another rung in the annals of the sport. With a seventh Grand Slam title, Djokovic passes Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, and is now tied with Mats Wilander and John McEnroe. When he wins his eighth, and given that he’s still in his physical prime he likely will, he’ll tie Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. And his Grand Slam winning percentage, courtesy of FiveThirtyEight, will actually be the highest among that group.

He’ll firmly be part of tennis royalty…but will he be one of the royals yet? There’s an argument to be made that he could be the most underappreciated player in the history of the sport. He’s one of only 10 players with at least 7 Grand Slam titles, but he’s the only one who has accomplished this while playing against possibly the two greatest players ever. Where he’ll live on in history is that year after year, he’s among the very best returners on tour, and the ATP MatchFacts tool seems to peg him as one of the best in history.

He’s underappreciated by history, and he knows it. Perhaps that’s why this second Wimbledon title may have been his most significant and emotional one—he had lost three Grand Slam finals in a row, and five of his last six, but now he can put all this behind him. “This is the tournament that I always dreamed of winning. This is the first tennis match that I ever [saw] in my life, when I was five years old,” he said before dedicating the title to his future wife Jelena Ristic, their unborn child, and to Jelena Gencic, his first coach who passed away a little more than a year ago.

Know what’s another thing that he accomplished with this victory? He saved Boris Becker’s job. The man had been brought on to help him finish and close matches on the biggest stage. And for a while, it looked like it was for naught, due to Djokovic’s deer in the headlights moment.

But still he won. And Becker got a big Serbian bro hug for that.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Podcast: Reviewing Wimbledon’s impact on Djokovic, Federer & Bouchard

July 6, 2014

Welcome tennis fans to another season of the TennisConnected Podcast!

In this week’s show, Nima Naderi and Parsa Samii are back to review the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.

We reflect on two weeks of tennis action in London and discuss the efforts of eventual winner Novak Djokovic, finalist Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic. We also discuss Petra Kvitova’s second title and Eugenie Bouchard’s future.

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.

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Djokovic beats Federer in five thrilling sets to win second Wimbledon title

July 6, 2014

Wimbledon—London, England

No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic claimed his second Wimbledon title on Sunday at the All England Club, defeating Roger Federer 6-7(9), 6-4, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4. Needing three hours and 56 minutes to prevail, Djokovic hit 68 winners, 13 aces and broke serve on four of 15 occasions. Winning 7 majors in total, Djokovic will also reclaim the No. 1 ranking in the world on Monday. Federer, who was aiming for his 18th major, fell to 7-2 in Wimbledon finals.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 13 Preview: Djokovic vs. Federer

July 5, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Petra Kvitova is the Wimbledon women’s singles champion once more, the Czech star adding to her 2011 win with a barnstorming triumph over Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard on Day 12 at the All England Club.

Day 12 Recap

Bouchard, playing in her first ever Grand Slam final, did not look fazed initially, holding her opening service game and striking the ball with precision. But it soon became apparent that Kvitova was in the zone on Day 12 in London, the Czech breaking serve in the third game and holding serve in the next game courtesy of a brilliant one-handed backhand winner after an entertaining all-court rally.

Enjoying an 82 percent success rate on her first serve points, and smacking winners at will (she would eventually tally 28 winners for the match), Kvitova forged ahead, claiming another break as the young Canadian was rendered helpless on Centre Court. Bouchard had one chance to get back in the match, when a couple of loose shots from the sixth seed at 5-2 handed Bouchard one of the breaks back. But Kvitova immediately refocused, breaking in the very next game to claim the opening set, 6-3.

The second set was one-way traffic, with Kvitova not dropping a game en route to a 6-3 6-0 win in 55 minutes – the fastest women’s final at Wimbledon for 31 years. Amazingly, Bouchard only committed 4 unforced errors for the match. Unfortunately for the Canadian, she was simply unable to match Kvitova in terms of power or pure shot-making ability, the Czech champion playing one of the matches of her life as she claimed her second Wimbledon title in 4 years.

For Bouchard, it was a tremendous run to the final, and further cemented her spot as one of the new stars of the WTA Tour. No doubt the Canadian will learn from this experience and be back in a major final before long. For Kvitova, the win underlined her enormous talent, especially on grass, and if she can stay healthy and motivated then I think she has the ability to win several more titles at the All England Club.

Match of the Day – Day 13

Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

This will be showdown number 35 for Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, but amazingly the pair has only played each other once in a Grand Slam final – the US Open way back in 2007, when Federer swept a youthful Djokovic in straight sets. Plenty has changed since that time, with Federer’s reign at the top of the rankings ending and Djokovic narrowing the gap in their head-to-head matches in the last few years (Federer now leads the Serb 18-16 in career meetings).

After various back-related issues in 2013, Federer has looked revitalized so far in 2014, a larger racquet also helping as he made the semi-finals in Melbourne, beat Djokovic en route to the Dubai title, and defended his title in Halle. The Swiss star has dropped only one set on his way to the final of this tournament, and has lost his serve just once as well. Federer is full of confidence at present, is comfortable on his favorite surface at his favourite tournament, and deep down must know that this match represents perhaps one of his last chances to add to his tally of major titles.

After winning almost everything there was to win in 2011 (except for the French Open, where he lost to Federer), Djokovic has found it hard to maintain such lofty standards, and hasn’t claimed a major since last year’s Australian Open. That said, the Serb has consistently been in and around the major finals over the last couple of seasons, and with a bit of luck Djokovic’s Grand Slam tally could be in the double figures by now. As it stands, the top seed has 6 majors to his name, including the 2011 Wimbledon championship, and he will be desperate to add to that collection in front of coach Boris Becker, a 3-time Wimbledon champion.

I think this contest is almost a flip of the coin. Djokovic has been more consistent over the past few years, but Federer has looked better and spent less time on court this fortnight and is on his preferred surface. If the roof is closed, that will help Federer, although both players are incredibly adaptable performers.

To my mind, the return of serve battle will be crucial. Djokovic hasn’t been at his best at SW19 so far this year, but is the world’s best returner in my opinion. If he can get some traction on Federer’s second serve, and force the Swiss star to be more reluctant to attack the net, then the Serb will be in the driver’s seat. However, if Federer can maintain his impressive serving form from the last few matches, and Djokovic exhibits the patchy form he showcased against Cilic and Dimitrov, then major number 18 could be headed Federer’s way.

I’m predicting this to be a cracking contest, with Federer’s current form and greater assuredness on grass being the decisive factors in a close match. Unlike against Nadal, Federer matches up well against Djokovic and I sense he will find just enough in his bag of tricks to edge past the top seeded Djokovic.

Federer in 5.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow to review the men’s final. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 12 Preview: Bouchard vs. Kvitova

July 4, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will battle it out in Sunday’s men’s final after keeping 2 of the leaders of the new generation at bay on Day 11, defeating Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov respectively.

Meanwhile, Day 12 sees Eugenie Bouchard take on Petra Kvitova in the ladies’ singles final. Read on to find out my prediction as to who will capture the crown.

Day 11 Recap

The first men’s semi-final saw top seed Novak Djokovic come roaring out of the starting blocks, hitting 19 consecutive first serves as he took the first set over Grigor Dimitrov and obtained a break of serve early in the second set. The Serb had a chance to go up a double break, but Dimitrov quashed that opportunity and got his act together, breaking back and proceeding to level the match at a set apiece.

The third set was a tight affair, with just one break point opportunity being obtained – a chance for Dimitrov that Djokovic was lucky to save courtesy of a mishit backhand. The former Wimbledon champion was too steady for the Bulgarian in the third set tiebreaker, taking it 7 points to 2, but Dimitrov had a much better chance in the fourth set, which also went to a tiebreaker, holding 3 set points at 6-3 in the tiebreaker. But Djokovic hung tough, winning 6 of the last 7 points to claim a hard-fought 4 set victory in just over 3 hours.

The statistics reflect a high-quality match, with both players hitting substantially more winners than unforced errors, but Dimitrov will be lamenting his poor break point conversion rate, winning just 3 of the 11 break point opportunities that he was able to create. Djokovic, meanwhile, will be frustrated with the lack of focus and the passivity that he showed in the middle part of the match.

Djokovic will need to concentrate harder if he is to topple Roger Federer in Sunday’s final, after the Swiss star put in a very focused performance to defeat big-serving Milos Raonic in straight sets in the second semi-final. A break to Federer in the opening game of the match was the perfect start for the fourth seed, who quickly consolidated his advantage and maintained his lead to take the first set, 6-4.

With Federer winning 81 percent of his first serve points, and Raonic consequently unable to cause the 7-time champion too many problems in handling his serve – the Canadian was able to create just one break point chance in the match, which Federer duly saved – it was always a case of Federer being in control. In the ninth game of both the second and third sets the 17-time major champion was able to break the serve of the big Canadian, and eventually Federer claimed an impressive 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win in 102 minutes to move through to a ninth career final at the All England Club.

Match of the Day – Day 12

Eugenie Bouchard vs. Petra Kvitova

It’s hard to believe, after her stunning run to the final at the All England Club and her semi-final appearances at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros earlier this year, but this year’s Wimbledon marks just the sixth Grand Slam tournament of 20 year old Eugenie Bouchard’s career. The Canadian was a junior champion at Wimbledon in 2012, and has adapted magnificently to the WTA Tour – a transition that many talented juniors struggle with.

Bouchard is clearly not intimidated by any of the big names on the women’s circuit – one could tell that simply by seeing how disappointed the Canadian was to lose to Maria Sharapova in 3 sets in Paris – but appearing in one’s debut Grand Slam final is a different matter and I expect that Bouchard will have some nerves at certain stages during the match.

Kvitova, of course, has done it all before at the All England Club, winning the title in 2011, although the Czech’s run to the final this year marks her first appearance in a Grand Slam final since that famous win over Sharapova in 2011. Kvitova beat Bouchard in their only previous match, the 24 year old notching a straight sets win over the Canadian at the Rogers Cup in August last year, but that match will count for little in this final.

On hard-courts or clay-courts, I would put this one down as an even-money bet, with Bouchard probably the steadier of the pair from the back of the court. However, Kvitova gets so many free points on grass from her fabulous leftie serve that I can’t go against her in this final. With Kvitova having the experience of both playing and winning a major final before, and Bouchard showing signs of tightness towards the end of her semi-final win over Halep, I think the Czech will also have a bit more composure than her younger opponent in the key moments of this match.

Bouchard by all means has the talent to win major titles and to even perhaps stake a claim for the world number one ranking, but I don’t think that this will be the year that she captures her first Grand Slam. I think this will be a close and hard-fought final, with the Czech claiming a narrow victory. Kvitova in 3.

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.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 11 Preview: Federer vs. Raonic & Djokovic vs. Dimitrov

July 3, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Petra Kvitova and Eugenie Bouchard will contest Saturday’s ladies’ final after overcoming Lucie Safarova and Simona Halep in their respective semi-finals on Day 10.

The men’s finalists will be decided on Day 11, with Novak Djokovic locking horns with Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer taking on Milos Raonic in what promises to be a bumper day of tennis.

Day 10 Recap

In the all-Czech first semi-final, Lucie Safarova exhibited some early nerves in what was her debut Grand Slam semi-final, dropping serve in the opening game of the match to former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. But Safarova soon gathered herself, breaking back 3 games later. The first set was a tight affair, Kvitova taking 51 minutes to finally edge her compatriot in a tiebreaker, 8 points to 6.

The loss of the first set seemed to deflate Safarova and inspire Kvitova, the 2011 champion breaking in the second and sixth games of the second set and sending down 8 aces en route to a 7-6(6) 6-1 victory in 80 minutes.

The trajectory of the second semi-final was eerily similar to that of the first semi-final, with Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard neck-and-neck throughout the first set, despite the Romanian badly turning her left ankle early in the set. The third seed soldiered on bravely and opened up a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker, only for Bouchard to come roaring back, taking 5 of the next 6 points to claim the set 7 points to 5.

As was the case with Safarova, losing a tight first set put Halep on the back foot in the second set, with the young Canadian racing out to a 4-1 lead. After losing semi-finals in the year’s first 2 Grand Slams, it was a case of third time lucky for Bouchard, who overcame some nerves in the latter stages of the match to seal a 7-6(5) 6-2 win on her sixth match point.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov comes into this match riding a 10-match winning streak on grass and must be full of confidence after making the defending champion, Scot Andy Murray, look positively second-rate in their quarter-final. With Roger Rasheed upping the Bulgarian’s work-rate and developing his confidence, self-belief and tactical awareness, the sky is the limit for the eleventh seed.

Djokovic wasn’t at his best against an on-song Marin Cilic in his quarter-final, but the Serb underlined just how hard it is to beat him in a Grand Slam contest, coming from 2 sets to 1 down to hammer Cilic 6-2 6-2 in the fourth and fifth sets. Dimitrov has beaten Djokovic before, on clay in Madrid last year, but each of their other 3 encounters has seen Djokovic walk away a straight sets victor.

If Dimitrov is to prevail, he will need to employ a similar game plan to the one he adopted against Murray – serving well, being aggressive and attacking the net to finish the point whenever possible. Djokovic is fitter and better defensively than the Bulgarian, so Dimitrov’s only option is to attack the Serb and seek to overpower him. I can see Dimitrov doing this for a set and a half, but I expect Djokovic to be a much tougher opponent for Dimitrov than Murray was in the quarter-finals. Djokovic in 4.

2. Roger Federer vs. Milos Raonic

Going into this tournament, it was a complete mystery to me that Milos Raonic had never ventured beyond the second round at the All England Club. The big Canadian with the ballistic serve should be one of the title favourites in any grass-court tournament that he enters, yet prior to this year he had woefully underperformed in the biggest grass-court tournament in the world.

But I have been mightily impressed with the eighth seed’s efforts in this tournament, especially in the quarter-finals against Kyrgios, when all the pressure was on Raonic and he had the first set practically stolen off him by the teenager. Coach Ivan Ljubicic has had a steadying influence on the Canadian, and I think his season in 2014 will set the foundation for a very strong next few years on the ATP Tour.

Federer has of course done it all before at Wimbledon, winning the tournament on 7 occasions. After last year’s back problems, the Swiss superstar is back fit and healthy and, with Murray and Nadal out of the tournament, must sense that this is a golden opportunity to add another title to his bulging trophy cabinet and further cement his legacy.

Federer has a commanding 4-0 career advantage over Raonic and, whilst I expect the Canadian to push the fourth seed all the way in this contest, I think Federer will be too sharp in the key moments. Just as Federer used to defuse Roddick’s giant serve at Wimbledon, so he will find a way to undermine Raonic’s huge serving advantage and notch up another semi-final win in SW19. Federer 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 me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

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