Tuesday, July 05, 2016

2016 WIMBLEDON: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2016. Last year I correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals. I will also predict this year's women's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] Sam Querrey (USA) [28] vs. Milos Raonic (CAN) [6]. After accomplishing the biggest upset of the year by defeating 2-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the previous round, Sam Querrey followed this up by defeating Nicolas Mahut, a grass-court specialist, to reach his first major quarterfinal. The Canadian Missile also had to traverse uncharted territory to reach this position, after dropping the first two sets to Belgian David Goffin, Raonic did not panic, but just concentrated on using his 130+ MPH serving ability to help him hold his serve and hunkered down to try and win the last three sets of the match. This was the first time in ten attempts that Raonic had been down 0-2 in sets and this was the first time that he was able to come back (in all the other matches he had lost in straight sets). Surprisingly, Querrey has a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over Raonic including a 4-set win at the 2012 Wimbledon, but the two have not met in the last three years, and certainly not since Raonic became a top 10 player. By adding John McEnroe to his coaching team, Raonic has signaled his intent to claim this title, and with Djokovic removed from the equation, this is a near golden opportunity for him, one everyone around him will recognize and want to take advantage of.  PREDICTION: Raonic.

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] vs. Marin Cilic (CRO) [9] Kei Nishikori (JPN) [5]. Sadly, the mouthwatering reprise of the 2014 US Open final ended up being a bust when a clearly injured Nishikori was only able to put up token resistance and  gave up before completing two sets. So, this gives us a reprise of the 2014 US Open semifinal, which is the last time these two met in competition, and the result was Cilic basically blasting Federer off the court. Can he do so again? Possibly. But Center Court Wimbledon is very different from Arthur Ashe stadium. Federer has always handled big servers well, but Cilic also moves exceedingly well for a 6-foot-6 man. However, I have to believe that Federer has planned all year for just this moment, and will be properly prepared to optimize his chances of winning this match (and the next two). That being said, I seriously doubt this will be a straight sets win (in either direction), and I do worry about the impact of a long, physical affair on Federer's chances. However, there's a reason he has reached 14 quarterfinals and 10 finals (and semifinals) at this tournament in his career. I think he will reach #11 this year. PREDICTION: Federer.

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [4] Lucas Pouille (FRA) [32] vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [10] Jiri Vesely (CZE). The "Next Generation" players that have been getting the most buzz all year are players like Sascha Zverev (19), Dominc Thiem (22) Taylor Fritz (18) and Borna Coric (19) but here on the grass courts of Wimbledon the two youngsters that have made the loudest impression on the draw are two 22-year-olds: Lucas Pouille from France and the Jiri Vesely from Czech Republic. Pouille is playing in only his second main draw in Wimbledon and he has reached his first major quarterfinal by eliminating Juan Martin del Potro (after the Argentine took out Stan Wawrinka) and Bernard Tomic. Vesely impressed earlier in the year, handing World #1 Novak Djokovic a defeat on clay in Monte Carlo but he also impressed here in Wimbledon by forcing a 5th set in his fourth round match with countryman Tomas Berdych after losing the first two sets, saving 5 match points in the process. I don't expect that to change on Wednesday. These two have never played before, but despite Berdych's emotionally draining previous round, he has the experience of being here before, and the confidence of knowing he has reached the final here before (in 2010). Pouille is talented, but is he that talented to win his first major quarterfinal? Perhaps, After all, Thiem did it in Paris a few weeks ago. But I'm doubtful that feat will be repeated here. PREDICTION: Berdych.

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] vs. Richard Gasquet (FRA) [7] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [12]. Tsonga is very lucky to be in this position. He was down 2 sets to none against John Isner in the 3rd round late on Saturday when he won a 3rd set tiebreak and eventually was able to even up the match by winning the fourth. He was serving second in the fifth set so eventually every breakpoint became a match point and yet he was able to save them and eventually broke Isner's serve and successfully served it out to win the fifth set by the ridiculous score of 19-17. Then his countryman Richard Gasquet gave him a gift by retiring after playing a mere six games to allow him to reach another quarterfinal here at the All-England Club.  Unfortunately, he is playing someone whom he has a 2-12 head-to-head record against, and has really only been able to beat when playing his very best tennis (i.e. 2008 Australian Open and 2014 Rogers Cup in Montreal) and it is very unlikely that will not be the case on Wednesday. In fact, I would be very surprised if Murray lost a set, but I suspect atleast two of the sets will be very tight, single service-break or tiebreak affairs. PREDICTION: Murray.

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