Friday, July 06, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Men's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals. This year I have correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic SRB (1) vs. Roger Federer SUI (3). There are three major rivalries in men's tennis right now: Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal (10-18), Roger Federer versus Novak Djokovic (14-12) and Novak Djokovic versus Rafael Nadal (14-19). Each of these match-ups brings excitement and intrigue to the men's game. Although the Djokovic-Federer rivalry is the 3rd most significant in terms of total matches contested is it is still quite significant, especially in terms of Grand Slam tennis. Although they have only met in one major final (unlike the 8 Nadal and Federer have contested or the 4 in a row Djokovic and Nadal have played over the last year), the two have met an astounding eight times in major semifinals (Djokovic leads 5-3). This number of semifinal clashes is quite surprising because Djokovic has only been in 15 major semifinals in his career (8 wins 7 losses) compared to 33 major semifinals for Federer, an all-time record. Their current head-to-head in grand slam matches is even at 5-all with Djokovic having won 4 of the last 5 meetings, including last month at the 2012 French Open semifinals. Their matches are becoming less competitive, not more, as both players age. However, bewilderingly, the two have never met at Wimbledon. Djokovic is the defending champion here but Federer won 5 titles in a row between 2003 and 2007 and considers Centre Court "his house." But Federer had also won 5 consecutive titles in New York between 2004 and 2008 when his reign was ended by Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 US Open final. In 2008, Nadal (the member of the triumvirate at the top of men's tennis who is missing from the final weekend due to a Czech fluke named Lukas Rosol) had to win what many consider the best match of all time to stop Federer from winning his 6th consecutive title here. Djokovic has demonstrated that he will do whatever it takes to win during the slugfest with Nadal that lasted nearly 6 hours to defend his Australian Open title. However, I don't believe that the match will be a slugfest. I think that Federer will do (and some would argue, he must) what it takes to change his game and mindset to beat Djokovic on grass: be aggressive, serve outstandingly and use the crowd. I believe that if Federer plays his best tennis and Djokovic plays his best tennis, that Federer can win. It doesn't mean that Federer will definitely win, but I believe it is more likely than not. Regardless, whomever wins this semifinal will almost certainly win the title. PREDICTION: Federer.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5) vs. Andy Murray GBR (4). Murray has faced more pressure to do well (i.e. reach the final and win it) at his country's major tournament, which just happens to be the oldest and most prestigious tournament in the world, than perhaps any well-know sports figure in the world. The fact that he has not cracked mentally under the pressure is a pretty good result. No male British player has reached the final of Wimbledon since 1938 and no one has won it since Fred Perry did it in 1936. Previously, Tim Henman carried the hopes of his nation circa 1998-2202 but Murray has already surpassed many of Henman's career achievements, reaching 10 major semifinals (and 3 major finals) to Henman's 6 major semifinals and no major finals. After having lost to Nadal in the previous two years he must be very happy that instead he will be facing someone else, the talented Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray did well to get past a surprisingly tenacious David Ferrer in tough 4-sets 6-7(5) 7-6(6) 6-4 7-6(4). Murray has a surprisingly large 5-1 career head-to-head edge against Tsonga, only losing to the Frenchman in the 1st round of the 2008 Australian Open, which is the tournament that Tsonga demolished Nadal in the semifinals and lost a tight 4-set final to Djkokovic. The two have played twice on grass, both won by Murray: an entertaining final of Queen Club last year and a 4-set Wimbledon quarterfinal encounter the year before where Tsonga won a bagel set but lost the match. Both players have improved since then, especially Tsonga, who has accomplished two noteworthy feats in the last year: having 3 match points against Djokovic in a major semifinal match (French Open 2012) and dropping two sets but winning the next three against Federer in last year's Wimbledon quarterfinal. Murray has not been able to accomplish either of these, but he has been consistently higher ranked than Tsonga for several years. It is very possible that Tsonga could have one of these superb performances which allows him to defeat Murray, but I suspect that the Briton will use his hometown advantage to counteract any notions of a Gallic upset. PREDICTION: Murray.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin