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Wimbledon: Men’s semi-finals

30 Jun

(Just a quick side note: This quickly written piece about the men’s semis will be my last entry for a few days – I’m off on a weekend away to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. Check back on Sunday evening for a Wimbledon Top 10 entry or a review of the tournament. In the meanwhile – enjoy the awesome weekend of tennis!)

The second Friday of the Wimbledon fortnight is the day on which the men’s semi-finals are contested. After 128 men started the tournament 12 days ago, only four remain. The semi-finals to be contested are Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray.

Semi-final 1: Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

The biggest upset of the tournament came in the men’s quarter-finals on Wednesday with the loss of title favourite Roger Federer. The six-time former champion looked set to win when he went two-sets to love up. His opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not however accept defeat and went on to win the match in five sets. He became the first man to come back from a two set deficit against Federer in a grand slam match.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia will be Tsonga’s semi-final opponent. Djokovic had a far tougher quarter-final match against Bernard Tomic than most expected. Tomic, an 18-year old Australian, won the second set to make it a best of three set match. He then went up a break in the third set and it seemed like more than one upset could be on the cards. Tomic was however reeled in by Djokovic who took the third and fourth sets to win the match despite his inability to consistently play at a high level.

 Tsonga – who was on fire against Federer particularly in the final two sets – will be hoping his serve remains in good shape. If he does serve at a level consistent with his performance in the previous match it is it is likely that he will give the world number 2 a serious challenge. Djokovic will be fancying his chances against the Frenchman to whom he has lost more often than not in the past. Tsonga might lead their head-to-head record 5-2, but Djokovic is the grand slam winner of the two and possesses a 41-1 record for the year to date. While Djokovic has undoubtedly been the best player in the world for much of the year, his form during Wimbledon has been sub par, and certainly not at a standard with which he will be satisfied. If his form fails to improve it is likely the match result will be on Tsonga’s racket. It is however doubtful that the flamboyant Frenchman will be able to maintain the level of play required to beat Djokovic for more than a couple of sets. As such, Djokovic ought to win. If his form improves to anything like it was prior to and during the French Open, he ought to win with relative ease.

My pick: Djokovic in five.

Semi-final 2: Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray

Much of the focus on Rafael Nadal has revolved around his injury problems – or if you prefer, the lack thereof. Regardless of the validity of his injury claims, he doesn’t seem to be suffering much and moved about as well as ever in his previous match against Mardy Fish. His injury problems are thus unlikely to have an effect on his performance during the final weekend of Wimbledon. Despite Fish managing to take a set off the defending champion, Nadal was very much the dominant player throughout the match. In addition to his brilliant form at the Championships, he is still enjoying the momentum provided by his win at the French Open.

His semi-final opponent is British hope Andy Murray. This is Murray’s third consecutive appearance in the final four at Wimbledon. He is due an appearance in the finals. The Brit’s form has been at a high level for the duration of the grass court season with a title win at the Queen’s Club tournament to his credit.

While Murray’s record against Nadal leaves much to be desired with Nadal leading 11 to 4, the British man has been playing some inspired tennis in the last few rounds of the tournament and is certainly capable of beating the Spaniard for a fifth time. This will still however be a tough assignment for Murray. Left-handed Nadal has developed a taste for grass since his first appearance at Wimbledon and will be the favourite to win the match. Nadal will be playing great tennis; whether or not he wins will be determined by the attitude and play Murray brings to the court. His best could send the defending champion packing.

My pick: Incredibly difficult to call, I’m hoping for a dramatic five-setter with the home favourite leaving the victor. As such I’m going with Murray in five, but I also know that Nadal could win in straights should Murray fail to show up with his absolute best.


Wimbledon: Men’s Quarter-Finals Day

29 Jun

The men’s draw has progressed mostly as expected with the biggest upsets being attained over three-time former finalist, Andy Roddick, and another former finalist, Robin Soderling. Roddick went out to a spirited performance by the Spaniard who favours grass, Feliciano Lopez, while Soderling was dispatched by the young Aussie gun, Bernard Tomic.

 Other than these two matches, affairs have been fairly simple and straightforward with few truly exciting matches or upsets yet to occur. The only other upset victory perhaps worthy of a mention is the Mardy Fish win over defending finalist, Tomas Berdych. As reported in Part 1 of The Top 10: Wimbledon, only four of the 56 matches played in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th round of the men’s draw went to five sets. This has resulted in the tennis being quite bland other than a few brilliant sets here and there in matches involving the top players in the world. Hopefully the players contesting the quarter-finals against the big four of tennis will play at a high enough level to make the matches absorbing affairs. It would be a great coup for tennis fans if the quarter-final matches were of a competitive nature throughout.

 Quarter-Final 1: Rafael Nadal vs. Mardy Fish

 It seems unlikely that Fish will be able to provide the world number one with a challenge too great to overcome. These two men last played each other three years ago with Fish losing all five matches contested between them. While he is now ranked 20 or so spots higher than he was back then, he is an inferior player to Nadal, and will have to play the match of his life to have an effect on the outcome of this match. Nadal’s form has been steadily improving with him playing some eye-catching tennis in his fourth round match against Juan Martin Del Potro despite injury fears which have since been allayed. It seems the result is to a large extent on Fish’s racket. A great performance from him and Nadal could lose not only the match, but also his number one ranking. This is however the first time in nine attempts that Fish has progressed beyond the 3rd round at Wimbledon. With his grass court pedigree in question, the defending champion has to be heavily favoured to win. 

The winner: Rafael Nadal in four.

Quarter-Final 2: Andy Murray vs. Feliciano Lopez

 The UK tabloids will undoubtedly lead with speculation about who Judy Murray will support in this match, what with her appreciation of Lopez’s appearance. It is unlikely that the players will be concentrating on anything other than their opponent’s on-court play. Andy Murray will be heavily favoured to win against the 29-year old who is making his third appearance in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon this year; Lopez could at the very least make it difficult for Murray.

Lopez’s excellent serving is likely to continue, this in addition to his serve-and-volley play and the fact that he is a lefty could cause Murray some problems should the Spaniard execute his game plan well. Murray has however made the semi-finals at Wimbledon for two years running, and has been playing some of his best grass court tennis. As such he is likely to win and the match could very likely turn into a rout should he take the first set.

The winner: Andy Murray in three.

Quarter-Final 3: Roger Federer vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

History and rankings heavily favour Federer to win their quarter-final encounter. Federer leads their head-to-head record by 4-to-1, and is ranked 16 spots higher than his opponent. The Frenchman who is famous for wearing his heart on his sleeve is however a great competitor who will certainly walk out on to Centre Court at Wimbledon thinking that he can leave as the winner. His form of late has been of a high level with a final run at Queen’s Club on his record this year. If the Frenchman serves at his best he could no doubt make the match a closely contested one. Despite the Frenchman’s best efforts he could still lose to Federer quite easily if the Swiss man’s form improves slightly on his not bad displays in the earlier rounds.

The winner: Roger Federer in four.

Quarter-Final 4: Novak Djokovic vs. Bernard Tomic

Despite being the player to drop the least amount of games in the Championships thus far (41) Djokovic has been the member of the big four who has looked most frail in his early matches. He struggled to hit the ball cleanly against Marcos Baghdatis and was clearly frustrated at his play, going so far as to slam his racket to the ground in a display of anger reminiscent of his earlier years on the tour. Despite this low level of form, Djokovic has been fairly lucky with regards to the draw, playing Michael Llodra in the fourth round – no disrespect meant to the Frenchman whose serve-volley style I love to watch; he has simply never displayed the class or results of a Gasquet, Del Potro or even Youzhny. Djokovic now faces the world number 158 in Bernard Tomic. While these matches aren’t too much of a challenge for the Serb, they do provide him with an opportunity to find some form; the Serb’s expectations should be as high as those of the other top 4 players come the weekend. Tomic has had a phenomenal run at Wimbledon in which he took out Igor Andreev in five sets and former finalist Robin Soderling. The Australian’s success has been the fairy tale story of the tournament. He has however yet to come up against a player of Djokovic’s class in what is only his second entry into the main draw at Wimbledon. He is a man for the future, while Djokovic’s time is very much now.

 The winner: Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

Should these predictions be realized it will be the first time in the open era of tennis that the top four seeds have all reached the semi-finals at two consecutive majors. While this might make the men’s quarter-final day slightly boring, it will certainly provide some excellent drama in the semi-finals and finals respectively. Something I think we have to look forward to.

Vote for your FOUR semi-finalists below. And feel free to share your picks in the comments below.

Tennis players and Google

28 Jun

Watching tennis can be quite time-consuming – I’ve realized this due to having to study for an exam while Wimbledon has been going on. Quite a task I’ll have you know, and also the reason for my blog entries being so few and far between. Nevertheless, the exam went well and I plan on making up for my lack of entries over the next three or four days.

 The very handsome, Greek-god-like Feliciano Lopez who despite making one of the more successful runs of his career at this Wimbledon – he took out three-time former finalist, Andy Roddick and today staged a comeback from two sets down against Lukas Kubot – has been in the news over the past week or so mainly for his attractive looks, the moniker Deliciano, and a few unsavoury lines from Justin Gimelstob about Lopez’s fixation on his looks, which Gimelstob has since claimed “were taken completely out of context”.  This seems to often happen to Justin Gimelstob.  Much of the furore about the physical appeal of Lopez, occurred as a result of Judy Murray and Andrea Petkovic bantering on twitter – in a very public and tongue-in-cheek manner – about how handsome the 29-year old is, and how this would affect Petko’s ability to focus while playing mixed doubles with him. Petko also jokingly teased Murray about the time that she would get to spend time with him. So as I was reading one of many articles about the Deliciano themed twitter exchange, I involuntarily giggled out loud at the content of their discussion, which in my defence were quite funny. I was however discovered while laughing away at a computer screen by a few family members. After being coerced into telling them about the source of my amusement, I was promptly instructed to Google image search the Spaniard by my mother – who is about Judy Murray’s age – and sister. They were quite impressed with the results, and now continually ask me if Deliciano is playing whenever the tennis is on.

 Other than gaining Lopez two new fans among my close family, the search also lead to Google recommending some zinger-related searches. I searched the term ‘Feliciano Lopez’, and Google suggested the related searches ‘Feliciano Lopez and Rafael Nadal’, ‘Feliciano Lopez Jockstrap’ and ‘Feliciano Lopez Bulge’ in that order. Naturally more laughter ensued, and while I promise that I didn’t actually click on any of the “suggested search terms”, it did get me thinking – what would the terms image searched in conjunction with the names of the other players be – and what does is say about the player if it says anything at all. Naturally I made a study of it.

 Rafael Nadal: Armani, shirtless, wallpaper, girlfriend, arms and body.

 Novak Djokovic: 2011, shirtless, wallpaper, hot, model and girlfriend.

 Roger Federer: Twins, logo, wallpaper, Wimbledon, wedding and wife.

 Andy Murray: Wimbledon, wallpaper, shirtless and girlfriend.

 Bernard Tomic: 2010, Australian Open, shirtless and girlfriend.

 Mardy Fish: Wife and shirtless.

 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Girlfriend

 While most of the other gents have somewhat less risqué search terms than the original Lopez search, (except perhaps for Nadal – his Armani campaign was after all an underwear one) I find it really surprising that backhand, forehand or serve don’t feature at all. It seems the searched terms reflect far more on tennis fans than players of the sport. Further proof that good personalities (and faces and bodies) are a major draw-card for tennis.

I initially planned on including the women’s quarter-finalist in this study too, but the terms were a bit dodge, so I think I will leave you to decide if it is a study you wish to make…

Remember to check back later for my list of the Wimbledon Top 10.

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