By Maud Watson
At the time of writing, the men’s semis are set, and once again, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer find themselves ready to do battle in a highly anticipated semifinal matchup with plenty on the line. In many ways, this is a bigger match for Federer. A win over the Serb would put him one match away from a historic victory at SW19. Such a win would not only see him tie Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon singles titles, but it would also earn him the No. 1 ranking to then tie and likely surpass the record Sampras set for most weeks at No. 1. The Swiss will be well aware that Wimbledon likely represents his best shot at regaining the top spot. He has some room to maneuver over the course of the summer, but given how dominant Federer was last fall, time is running out for him to gain the necessary number of points to leapfrog the current No. 1. As for Djokovic, a semifinal win would secure his No. 1 ranking and put him one step closer to successfully defending his Wimbledon crown. He certainly looks primed to achieve both goals, as he’s playing much better this tournament than last month in Paris. For history’s sake, my heart is pulling for Federer, but as the saying goes “if I were a betting man,” my chips would be on Djokovic.
The other men’s semifinal pits Great Britain’s native son Andy Murray against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a match that’s a complete tossup. Tsonga has been to a major final, and as evidenced by his shocking victory over Federer at last year’s Wimbledon, has shown that when his game catches fire, he can blitz anyone off the court. Unfortunately, Tsonga’s game also tends to have peaks and valleys, and Murray’s consistency could spell trouble for the Frenchman. Murray has also been in this situation more frequently than Tsonga, and his higher ranking and 5-1 head-to-head lead over Tsonga would seem to indicate he has the edge in this matchup. This match is essentially going to come down to the intangibles. How both handle the pressure of trying to book a place in their first Wimbledon final will play a significant part. The larger share of that pressure will likely rest on Murray’s shoulders, as he is the higher ranked player and is also the man trying to end Britain’s drought for a homegrown champion. The fact that it is Tsonga and not Nadal who stands in Murray’s path only increases the pressure exponentially. How Murray pulls up after his quarterfinal victory over Ferrer – the most physically taxing of the four quarterfinals – may also come into play. Again, this is a tough one to call. An entire nation will be pulling for Murray, but it may not be enough to stop the Frenchman from breaking British hearts.
Night and Day
You never quite know what you’re going to get with Serena Williams, and she’s proven that this fortnight at Wimbledon. After suffering a devastating loss in the opening round of a major for the first time in her professional career just last month in Paris, Serena Williams has gone to the opposite end of the spectrum in London, having reached her seventh Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Final. While parts of her game have looked shaky, her serve has been a thing of beauty during these Championships. She hit a record 24 aces – a set’s worth – in her semifinal win over Victoria Azarenka, and suffice it to say, if that serve is clicking come Saturday, it’s going to be a long day for Aga Radwanska. The final match is primarily in the American’s hands. If she can continue to serve well, manage her own nerves, and avoid getting frustrated by the number of balls that may potentially keep coming back, the odds are in her favor. It’s not as though the opposition is going to hit her off the court. In short, it’s ultimately up to Serena as to whether or not she can and wants to show the world what she’s capable of when her heart and mind are focused on the sport.
Aga Radwanska has catapulted into the upper most echelons of the women’s game, and on Saturday afternoon in England, she will step out onto Wimbledon Centre Court with two prizes up for grabs – her first major singles title and the No. 1 ranking. It’s wonderful for the game that a player like Radwanska has reached the final. She is one of the few true “thinkers” on tour, as her lack of power forces her to use more court craft and guile to achieve success. With the steady progress she has made this year, a breakthrough at the majors was due, and her spot in the Wimbledon final is well deserved. She will have her work cut out for her against Williams, who could potentially steamroll her. But don’t make the mistake of assuming this has the same feeling as the Sharapova vs. Errani final we saw a month ago at the French Open. Radwanska has beaten some of the sport’s biggest hitters before, with her win over Sharapova in the Miami final last March coming to mind. She’s ranked No. 3 for a reason, and provided she holds her nerve and plays within herself, she’s in with a chance to become the first Polish woman to win a singles major and sit atop women’s tennis.
Same Song & Dance
A bit of troubling news made headlines earlier this week when Rafael Nadal announced that, due to knee tendinitis, he would have to pull out of the exhibition he was going to play against Novak Djokovic on July 14. The announcement was an unfortunate one for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, ticket holders to the exhibition will be disappointed. But the announcement also comes with plenty of question marks that spawn both skepticism or worry depending on which camp one falls into. After three months of collecting nearly every clay court title this spring, running around the court like a jack rabbit, and heading into Wimbledon with zero mention of physical problems, it’s bound to raise a few eyebrows that within a week of suffering what was arguably his worst defeat at a Slam he should come out with the news that his knees are too sore to play an exhibition. After all, when the exhibition was originally scheduled, Nadal had to have known odds were he would be heading into it after a lucrative clay court campaign, a deep, possibly title-winning run at Wimbledon, and that the Olympics would then be just around the corner. Gut instinct says that if he were still competing at Wimbledon, and especially if he’d won the title, he probably would not have pulled out the exhibition. Then again, a successful clay court swing does mean a lot of matches and wear and tear on the body. His style of play isn’t doing his knees any favors, and if his body reacted this way to the more forgiving surfaces, his fans are undoubtedly worried about how he’ll handle the summer hard court swing. In this case, rest would definitely be necessary heading into a busy summer schedule. Either way, there’s little doubt that Nadal is going to be one of the most scrutinized tennis players at the 2012 London Olympics.