Wimbledon 2012 Results: Full Recap of Semifinal Action
As was fitting for a fortnight full of thrilling matches and surprise upsets, Thursday's and Friday's Wimbledon semifinals offered four outstanding tennis matches.
The semifinals were everything a fan could want: a determined battle between two of the biggest rivals in the sport; a competition between two of the brightest young stars, each seeking to climb to the top of the game; the local favorite desperately trying to win his first Slam and silence his critics; and a legend returning to her peak after battling serious health concerns.
Here we recap each of the four matches and look at what lesson we can learn from each.
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Coming into Wimbledon, Serena Williams had been having a tough 2012. She injured herself at the Brisbane International, was defeated by Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round of the Australian Open, and, most notably, imploded against Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open, the first opening round loss at a Grand Slam event in her career.
Williams hadn't won a Grand Slam event since 2010's Wimbledon, and many began to wonder if her recent health problems had affected her play and caused a hit on her confidence.
After her shocking Wimbledon loss, Lindsey Davenport said "I've never seen her tighter, I've never seen her choke more...It was like she just completely froze, and I don't think anyone's used to seeing, of all players, her freeze."
If Williams' struggles were due to a lack of confidence, her performance in the semifinals round at Wimbledon against Victoria Azarenka should leave her feeling on top of the world.
Williams demolished Azarenka 6-3, 7-6 (6), taking control of the match from the first game.
Williams, famous for having one of the best serves in the history of the women's game, broke her own Wimbledon record for most aces in a match with 24, one more than her old record of 23.
Azarenka had no answer for Williams' dominance in the first set, and though Azarenka made a spirited comeback attempt in the second set, Williams looked more determined than she has in a long time, and finished off Azarenka with three aces in the tiebreaker.
Williams' dominance in the semifinal has to leave her upcoming final opponent Agnieszka Radwanska nervous, as no one wants to face one of the Williams sisters on the grass at Wimbledon; Venus and Serena have combined to win nine of the last 12 women's singles titles at Wimbledon.
Radwanska is 0-2 in her career against Williams, most recently losing 4-6, 0-6 in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Wimbledon. Radwanska has come a long way since then, but with Williams brimming with confidence and in complete command of her serve, Radwanska has her hands full in the upcoming final.
The Future of the Womens Singles Game Is Wide Open
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Unlike the men's side of tennis, in which three players have won 28 of the last 29 Grand Slam events, the future of the women's game appears to be wide open.
Though the past decade of women's tennis was dominated in large part by the Williams sisters, who combined to win a total of 21 Grand Slam events between 2000 and 2010, the game has been much more wide open in the first years of the present decade.
At 32, Venus Williams appears no longer to be a significant challenger at Grand Slam events, and though Serena is still playing world class tennis, at 30 years old her window is closing.
Other than the Williams sisters, only Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, and Maria Sharapova have won at least three majors over the past decade. Clijsters has announced that she will retire for a second time after this year and Henin's been retired for a year and a half, leaving only Sharapova to join Serena Williams as a major Grand Slam force.
Yet, as talented and accomplished as Williams and Sharapova are, this year's Wimbledon tournament proves once again that the two do not have a stranglehold at the top of the game the way that Roger Federer, Rafael Nafal, and Novak Djokovic do over the men's game.
Of the three women who competed with Williams in this year's semifinals—Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Angelique Kerber—only Azarenka has won a Grand Slam title (this year's Australian Open), and none are older than 24.
Of the women competitors in their 20's, only Sharapova—who is 25—has established herself as a frequent presence in the finals of Grand Slam events. The rest of the field is still battling to determine who will be the dominant few of their generation.
For now, Radwanska is on top, having defeated Kerber 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinal. She won the first set in five straight games, took an early lead in the second set, and held on through a strong run by Kerber to advance to the finals.
Heading into her match against Williams, Radwanska is battling a respiratory infection and is a significant underdog against the much more experienced Williams.
Roger Federer Is Still on Top
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It has been more than two years since Roger Federer last won a Grand Slam title, and 2011 marked the first year since 2002 in which he did not win a Slam event. Many in the tennis world began to wonder if age had taken away a slight bit of Federer's edge, and if the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Federer was becoming the Big Two.
With his decisive win over Djokovic in the Wimbledon semifinals, Federer made the clear statement that he's not going anywhere.
Federer looked every bit the six-time Wimbledon champion on Friday, controlling the match early and playing masterfully in the third and fourth sets. Djokovic rallied in the second set, but Federer was nearly perfect when serving, and Djokovic seemed to have no answer for the Maestro.
Since Federer's last Slam victory at the 2010 Australian Open, he has struggled to keep pace with rivals Nadal and Djokovic, who had combined to win each of the past nine Slam events.
During that run, Federer lost four semifinal Slam matches to Djokovic and a semifinal match and a finals match to Nadal. It began to seem that the future of men's tennis was in the hands of the 26-year-old Nadal and the 25-year-old Djokovic, who met in four consecutive Slam finals, and that the 30-year-old Federer's era of dominance was over.
Federer's masterful play against Djokovic should send a message to Nadal and Djokovic that the road to Slam victories still runs through him.
Federer enters Sunday's final against local favorite Andy Murray with more than just the Wimbledon title on the line. With a victory over Murray, Federer would tie Pete Sampras's record of seven Wimbledon championships. A win would also propel Federer back to a number one ranking, tying Sampras's record of 286 weeks at number one.
Andy Murray Is the Biggest Threat to the Big Three
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The men's game has been dominated in recent years by Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, and there seems to be a somewhat sizeable gap between the Big Three and their nearest competitors. But at the very top of that list are Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, ranked fourth and sixth in the world, respectively.
The two competitors, each of whom had played in at least one previous Grand Slam final, met on Friday for the right to take on Roger Federer in the final.
Murray, a native of Scotland and the clear homecourt favorite, had the overwhelming support of the crowd as he played for his first Wimbledon final.
Murray had lost in the Wimbledon semifinals in each of his three previous attempts, and many began to question whether he had the necessary mental approach to the game to survive the pressures of Wimbledon.
Murray looked good from the beginning and appeared far more relaxed than he has in previous years. He started off strong early, winning the first two sets 6-3 and 6-4, but his game slipped a bit in the third set, allowing Tsonga to take one set 6-3.
Murray and Tsonga both looked strong in the final set, but Murray came out on top, winning 7-5 and advancing to the final.
With Murray's win, he becomes the first Brit to play in a Wimbledon final since 1938. He faces his toughest challenge yet in the final against Federer.
Murray and Federer have met in Grand Slam finals twice before, in 2008 and 2010, and Murray failed to win a single set in either match. Murray has a new coach (Ivan Lendl), and Federer may not be the player he was two or four years ago.
Murray will have the homecourt advantage that he didn't enjoy in the previous two Slams.
Andy Murray will need to win a few Grand Slams before his name can be mentioned in the same breath as Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, but Friday's match was a prime example of why Murray is the biggest threat to the dominance of the trio.