Saturday, July 11, 2015

2015 WIMBLEDON: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] v. Roger Federer (SUI) [2]
Here are my predictions for the men's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2015. Last year I did not predict that Novak Djokovic would beat Roger Federer in the final. This year I correctly predicted that Serena Williams would defeat Garbiñe Muguruza in the women's final. I also  correctly predicted correctly 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals2 of 2 women's semifinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

The Men's Semifinals: A Review
Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] d. Richard Gasquet (FRA) [23] 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4. The winner of this match was never really in doubt. Richard Gasquet is a good grass-court player and deserves respect, but sometimes people are overmatched, and there's a reason why Djokovic has been #1 for more than a year while Gasquet is seeded #20. That being said, the Frenchman acquitted himself well and did not embarrass himself like he did at his hometown slam a month ago where none of the three sets he played against Djokovic were even remotely competitive. At this point in his career Djokovic simply doesn't lose in big tournaments to players outside the Top 10 (and rarely even loses to those players in those moments). His record in the last four majors is 25-2.

Andy Murray (GBR) [3] l. Roger Federer (SUI) [2] 5-7 5-7 4-6. This match-up between the 2012 Wimbledon champion (Federer) and the 2013 Wimbledon champion (Murray) for the right to face the 2014 Wimbledon champion (Djokovic) is a plot worthy of a Hollywood script. Many people thought that Murray would win this match because arguably he has been playing as well as Federer this year (they each have 6 losses but the Scot has 10 more wins, although bizarrely the Swiss has won one more title but Murray has had a better record at the Slams so far in 2015.) They both came into this match undefeated on grass for the year but Federer has worked himself into a deadly efficiency on his serve at this year's Wimbledon. He has only faced four breakpoints in the tournament to date and saved three of them(!). In this match against one of the best service-returners in the game Federer faced a breakpoint only in the very first game, and ended up winning 70 of 91 service points. This resulted in relentless pressure on Murray in his service games, who played very well, serving at a very good 74% but he was outmatched by Federer's 76%. The British player was only broken at the end of sets when the importance of the points increased geometrically and the tension ratcheted up exponentially. A key point was in the 10th game of the second set where the two played an excruciatingly long game, where Murray faced and saved 5 breakpoints that were set points. He saved them all with incredible defense and displaying his elite foot speed to bring the set score to 5-all and the capacity crowd in Centre Court (and Murray Mound/Henman Hill) roaring to its feat with joy. Federer shook off the lost opportunities, held serve in under a minute and the next time Murray served he was unable to again save all the breakpoints (which were also set points). Part of the reason Federer was so effective was that his movement was extraordinary and he was hitting his topspin backhand with authority, deferring the use of his effective slice backhand mostly to service return points. Murray played well but lost to the better player on the day.

The Men's Final: A Preview and Prediction
Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Roger Federer (SUI) [2]. Of course this match is a reprise of last year's men's final, which was won by Djokovic in 5 sets, despite losing the first set in a tiebreak, and losing the fourth set when he was up a break (and had chances for a double break). These two players have the second longest rivalry in the history of men's tennis, having met 39 times before (Federer has a slight 20-19 edge). Even though the Federer-Nadal rivalry is more famous (and compelling) it actually only consists of 33 meetings (with the Spaniard dominating 23-10), the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is men's tennis longest, stretching to 44 games, with Nadal slightly ahead (23-21). The two have played three times so far this year with Djokovic winning twice (Indian Wells final and Rome final) and Federer once (Dubai final). Federer-Djokovic XL is happening on grass at  the 2015 Wimbledon championships where the numbers indicate that the 17-time major champion is playing slightly better than the 8-time major champ. Federer has more winners, less errors, a higher service percentage, a higher service return percentage and an impeccable record on his serve at this year's tournament. Djokovic has been broken 5 times (but saved an incredible 20 of 25 break points) while Federer has been broken once (saved 3 of 4 breakpoints). If Federer does get into pressure situations for the first time in the tournament, how will he handle them? I'm sure his game plan is to serve well enough not to get into those positions in the first place (like he did against Murray), but Djokovic is an even better returner than Murray so I can't believe that this match will be that one-sided. That being said, I do think that Federer is playing better than he did last year and with Djokovic's loss in the French Open final a few weeks ago, he is the one who really has more mental pressure to still demonstrate that he has the game to take him into the upper pantheon of the tennis greats. Federer already knows that he will be in any conversation about the Greatest Of All Time regardless of the outcome of this match, which is his 10th Wimbledon final and 26th major final of his career (17-8); his legacy is assured. For Djokovic, playing in his 17th major final (4th in five years at Wimbledon) he is only 8-8 with the final determination of his relative greatness still to be determined. MadProfessah's prediction: Federer.

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