As far as grand slam semifinals go, you could hardly have two matches that are any more different – and yet, strangely similar in one important way.

In John Isner and Kevin Anderson, you have two players who have more-or-less earned their way here with their ability to end points quickly. In Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, you have the two premier baseline sluggers of their era. The former is a testament to impatience, the latter a testament to perseverance.

As of this writing, the bookmakers have both matches completely even.

So strap yourselves in. This could be a very long afternoon. Four men, each looking across the court and (to some degree) staring into a mirror. Who will blink first? Read on for a look at both men’s semifinals.

Kevin Anderson (RSA) [8] v John Isner (USA) [9] – First on Centre

About as pure a matchup of power grass court tennis as you can get in the modern age, 6’10 John Isner against 6’8 Kevin Anderson might just be the serve-fest to end all serve-fests. A rivalry that Isner leads 8-3 while also not having dropped a service game this tournament, the American will certainly has every reason to feel confident, but how can you discount the man who just blew Roger Federer off the court? Indeed, for as impressive as Isner has been, he’s not going to get the looks Federer did on the Anderson serve, and the South African showed there a prowess from the back of the court that will be hard to match – it’s just a question of whether he can get lightning to strike twice, or at least close by. If Anderson does, he wins, if he doesn’t, Isner’s consistency wins the day – either way, it’s likely to be very, very close.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2] v Novak Djokovic (SRB) [12] – Second on Centre

Just when you thought the sun had set on the most prolific rivalry in men’s tennis, along comes Wimbledon 2018 to set it off all over again. Fifty-one times the two have played, with Djokovic leading 26-25, albeit only thrice on grass (Nadal leads 2-1), and not since the Wimbledon final in 2011. If these were any other two players, you might think the relative ease with which Djokovic won his quarterfinal over Kei Nishikori compared to Nadal’s own arduous affair with Juan Martin Del Potro might give some indication of how things would turn out, but here it truly doesn’t matter. Even on grass, this will be a war of attrition, where mental fatigue will take primacy over physical, with each man being asked to respond over-and-over to the inevitable long rallies, (un)timely winners, and service break opportunities. Expect the momentum to fluctuate, the telling sign being how well Djokovic attacks with his crosscourt backhand versus Nadal’s forays with his down-the-line forehand, but in either case, a very long day at the office which if only on overall 2018 form, you have to give the Spaniard the edge in.


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