Friday 6th July will see Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer meet in their first Wimbledon meeting, and then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes on Britain’s Andy Murray in a repeat of their 2010 Quarter Final. Both matches promise to be thrilling encounters, and potentially tough to pick a winner with all four players showing similar levels of form.
The opening Semi Final, pits the new World’s No’s 1 & 2 together, and without doubt, the two form players of the tournament. Novak Djokovic has made a strong defence of his Wimbledon crown earned last year in blistering fashion during a sensational 2011 during which he not only captured 3 Grand Slams, but added a further 7 titles. During 2011, Djokovic and Federer met in 3 Grand Slam Semi Finals, with Novak winning 2 of them. Only Federer’s defeat at the hands of Tsonga in last years Wimbledon Qularter Final prevented a clean sweep of Semi Final meetings in 2011 between the two of them.
On paper and based on their playing statistics in the tournament, there is little to choose between Djokovic and Federer. Federer has played a set less than Djokovic, however 3 of Federer’s sets have gone to tie-breaks whereas none of Djokovic’s have. Their 1st serve points won show a slight advantage for Federer at 80.6%, and Djokovic at 79.2%. These margins are minimal and even over 5 sets, they are unlikely to be decisive. What this game will come down to is a will to win and outright desire.
Head to head records are often touted in the build up to big matches, in this case, it provides little insight as this is not only their 1st Wimbledon meeting, but also their first meeting on grass. Also, Federer has 6-5 advantage in Grand Slam meetings between the two, but that hides that fact that Djokovic has won 4 of the last 5 Grand Slam meetings,
Novak Djokovic has been on the crest of a wave since he clinched the 2010 US Open, and his 2012 campaign has shown no signs that the wave is sinking, he has already added a third Australian Open to his Grand Slam collection and reached his first French Open Final, his Australian Open victory perfectly illustrated the will to win and sheer physical prowess he possesses.
Based on that performance in isolation, it is hard to argue against a Djokovic victory. However, Roger Federer has shown time and again that he is one of the all-time greats and on his favoured surface in an arena that has seen him clinch 6 titles, it would be foolhardy to write him off. In fact I predict a Federer victory in yet another 5 set thriller between these two modern-day greats.
In normal circumstances, Djokovic vs Federer would be the headline event, however, this is Wimbledon and Andy Murray is in his 4th Semi Final, and without Nadal standing opposite him on Centre Court, theoretically this represents his best chance of being Britain’s first Wimbledon finalist since 1938. Such thoughts are feasible but they do make a gross underestimation of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Tsonga is in his 2nd successive Wimbledon Semi Final, he was overpowered by Novak Djokovic in 4 sets last year, he also lost to Djokovic in last month’s French Open despite having match points to win. He has shaken off that experience remarkably well with a series of strong performances on route to the Semi Finals, however, in Murray, he is faced with a player who has beaten him in a grass court Final last year at Queens and also here at Wimbledon in 2010 at the Quarter Final stage.
He has a crowd pleasing style of tennis and has particularly strong on his service games this tournament, he has hit 75 aces so far this, and has not only been strong on 1st serve points, but also on 2 serve points, winning 79.6% and 60.4% of those respectively. However his run of opponents has been favourable, Mardy Fish for example, though seeded 10th, is still recovering from early season fitness issues. He hasn’t converted an easier run of opponents than Murray into a lower number of sets and matches, both have played 18 sets, and Murray has only played 5 games more.
Murray has treated the early exit of Nadal with professionalism and respect for the other players in his half of the draw, rightly pointing out that the draw hasn’t opened up for him as he wasn’t due to play Nadal until this stage. He has also shown great respect for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, calling him ‘one of the best grass court players in the world’, that said, Murray goes into this contest a strong favourite. Those of a faint hearted nature might well be thinking back to 2001 when Tim Henman had the draw apparently open up for him, only to lose to Goran Ivanisevic in the Semi Final’s.
Murray, in beating Ferrer, showed a level of form that would make him very difficult to beat by any player in the world on this surface, he won 80% of his 1st service points, hitting 18 aces and 61 winners. It was a power packed performance against one of the fittest players on tour. Tsonga, whilst not unfit, does not have the same level of fitness as Ferrer and will provide a test Murray should be more comfortable with. Murray may well focus on Tsonga’s backhand which is widely considered his weak link and additionally utilise his stronger legs to tire out the big Frenchman.
Both players will come into the final with massive confidence, Tsonga will know that but for a handful of sloppy points he could have beaten Djokovic at Roland Gorros. Murray will rightly feel that, in beating Ferrer, he showed a level of form that far outweighs anything showed by Tsonga this tournament. I predict Andy Murray will be too much for Tsonga in this match, he won’t have it all his own way but he will win through 3 sets to 1 to reach his 1st Wimbledon Final.