Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wimbledon Men's Quarter Finals: Previews and Picks


The collective British heart will no doubt be palpitating wildly tomorrow, as Andymonium round five takes to Centre Court with a chance to get one step closer to the holy grail.

Murray Mania survived it's most aggressive challenge on Monday, as Stan the Man Wawrinka, clearly inspired by all the attention and fanfare surrounding this tilt, pulled out all the stops in his attempt to derail the huffing and puffing locomotive known as Andy Murray.

In the end his herculean effort fell just short, with Murray fending off break points and repeated assaults from perhaps the most sizzling one-handed backhand in the sport.

Tomorrow's match doesn't look to be as challenging on paper, but they don't play Wimbledon quarter finals on paper - the chosen surface is grass, in case you've been in a dark and tennisless closet since before 1877.

Here's a closer look at the Murray - Juan Carlos Ferrero match, along with the other three quarter final match ups that are set to take place tomorrow.

Andy Murray vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero:

You don't have to search very far to find the results of the last meeting between these two: Murray put a thrashing on Juan Carlos in the semis at Queens Club, 6-2, 6-4. That was June 14th. The story of that match was that Murray won 86 percent of his first serves, while Ferrero only won 64 percent of his.

Murray's 9 aces were also a factor, and he needs to reconnect with his serve to make this quarter final match relatively easy compared to what he had to go through with Wawrinka yesterday. Make no mistakes, Stan the Man played out of his head yesterday.

But the good news for Murray is that he was able to deliver yesterday on the big points against Wawrinka. Even with the hopes and aspirations of a whole nation shadowing his every stroke, Murray can swallow up the tenseness and spit it back out as a break point saved. He saved 10 of them yesterday.

The only bad news for Murray is that he served only 44 percent in the first set and 42 percent in the third against Wawrinka. Imagine what Federer will be able to construct against him if he does that in a possible final that is truly too far off to even bother getting your hopes up for. Yet.

Pick: Murray in 4

Andy Roddick vs. Lleyton Hewitt:

What? What year is it?

Roddick made the point in one of his recent and typically fabulously hilarious pressers that the average age in the top (insert the number he actually said here - was it 100?) players was 26.

At 26, the other Andy is definitely not over the hill, and the way he has been training this year, and playing inspired tennis, is a true testament to the mans character. You don't have the nastiest serve in the sport (sorry Karlovic, but be real) without having loads upon loads of character. Slice it any way you like it but the results are going to come out the same, this is Roddick's match to win.

Hewitt is 28, but he did have the hip surgery. He also just had a tough five-setter against Radek the worm Stepanek, and had to call for the trainer for a rubdown in the process.

The Aussie's run here at the All England Club has been the stuff of dreams. A return to past glory is nothing to be scoffed at, and the 2002 champ is really showing that he loves to play on the grass. But Roddick is making a homecoming of sorts as well. He's a two-time runner up At Wimbledon and only Federer could stop him in those years.

Pick: Roddick in 4

Roger Federer vs. Ivo Karlovic:

Can you believe that Federer is actually taking a back seat to Andymononium at the moment? Perhaps the greatest player in the history of the sport going for perhaps the most important statistic of all? Are you kidding me?

I'm not sure if you caught the applause that he was given by the Centre Court crowd as he exited after his eleventh consecutive victory against Robin Soderling. It was really warm. It's almost as if the British crowd senses that they might have to turn against him in the final so they are making sure they give the Swiss maestro his props in the next few rounds.

Look for them to lend a hand to him against Dr. Ivo.

Murray is 8-1 vs. the Croatian giant. And don't think that the King of Grass isn't lying on his back next to his wife and the growing child inside her belly and reflecting on these 8 victories. Or maybe he's reflecting on the 1 loss? Only Federer himself knows how Federer himself works. All we as fans know is that he is a genius. How dare us to even speculate? We that chastised him earlier in the year for not taking on a coach. How could we?

And look at Federer now. It is obvious that releasing the part of his brain that was previously devoted to Rafa has released the uninhibited dare-we-say perfection possessed by the man.

Look for him to slice and dice the Karlovic serve. He'll be challenged just like Karlovic's previous four victims, but this is Roger Federer we're talking about.

Karlovic has been impressive in his four breakless victories, no doubt. He hasn't even faced a break point since the first round. How is that even possible? The 6'10 mammoth man won two tiebreakers in his victory over Federer at the Cincinnati Masters event in 2008. But that's only 1 win in 9 tries. And Federer won their last meeting (and while in the midst of his slump), this year at Indian Wells.

Federer is 8-3 in career tiebreakers against Dr. Ivo.

Federer is 25-4 in his last 29 Wimbledon tiebreaks.

That says it all to me. Roger is the essence of the word clutch. And He's going for 15, while Rafa's icing his knees. For him there is no better scenario.

Pick: Federer in 5

Novak Djokovic vs. Tommy Haas:

The forgotten man at Wimbledon 2009 has definitely been Novak Djokovic. That may have something to do with the fact that he was nowhere to be found in the second week at Roland Garros this year.

But like Roland Garros, Wimbledon's semis have also seen the red-blooded Serb take part in them. Novak was a semi-finalist in 2007, and in spite of his Roland Garros loss to Kohlschreiber, I think he's got to be the favorite against the oldest man left in the draw.

Tommy Haas had that wonderful suspense-filled match against Marin Cilic in the third round (the one that had my vote for match of the tourney until the Murray 4th rounder), and then the 31-year-old German cruised to victory against Igor Andreev in the fourth round.

Haas possesses an elegant game that features a gorgeous one-hand backhand and a classic serve motion. It is always fun to see him in top form.
This will be a battle of former No. 2' s in the world, with Novak's stint at the top being much more recent.

After playing a sloppy first round match, the salacious Serb has delivered some of his most inspired tennis of the season. He made easy work of Mardy Fish in the 3rd round, and then did the same against Dudi Sela in the 4th. Haas will be a step up from that level of competition, but Djokovic will be playing to avenge the loss he suffered against Haas earlier this month in Halle, Germany.

You can look at that grass court final, won by Haas in 3 sets (6-1 in the 3rd), in two ways: as a sign that Haas is ready for the semis, or as a sign the pain and suffering that this loss caused Djokovic to suffer will be paid back in double by the in-over-his-head Haas.

Pick: Djokovic in 4

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