Wimbledon 2013 Men's Semifinals: Murray vs. Janowicz Preview and Prediction

Jeremy EcksteinFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2013

Wimbledon 2013 Men's Semifinals: Murray vs. Janowicz Preview and Prediction

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    Andy Murray survived an epic five-set comeback victory and has advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals to face young Polish star Jerzy Janowicz.

    It's an intriguing match of contrasts and possibilities, and there is some savory history and mystery for tennis fans seeking a new possible rivalry.

    Murray is the seasoned veteran, looking to finally track down the Wimbledon title for all of Great Britain.

    Janowicz is the 6'8" powerful upstart, playing with house money and a sense of confident entitlement.

    Get ready for an exciting blockbuster of adrenaline-filled outbursts. Neither player will be reticent about showing his emotions and unleashing his fury. It's big-time tennis with no less than the Wimbledon final on the line.

    What advantages does each player possess, and who will be more resilient?

    We are about to find out.

Who Has the Historic Edge?

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    Murray has had a wealth of Grand Slam experience and big matches.

    Wimbledon is his backyard and the launching pad to his career improvement in summer 2012. There, he reached the finals, and followed this up with a gold-medal victory at the Olympics in London.

    He holds a major advantage in this regard.

    Janowicz is blazing a new trail in his young career. He has not advanced past the third round in any Grand Slam event until now.

    They have faced each other only two times, with very interesting results.

    Murray easily defeated an 18-year-old Janowicz in a 2009 Davis Cup match, but showed unusual and perhaps questionable etiquette. He seemed to deride Janowicz's opening game double fault, according to Richard Jago of The Guardian.

    There were several other shouts of "Come on" in his straight sets victory.

    In November, 2012, Janowicz upset Murray 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2 on the fast indoor courts at Paris. This led to his finals appearance, where he fell to David Ferrer.

    It also awakened the world to Janowicz's potential.

    Now he comes into the semifinals knowing he can beat Murray. This will be huge for his confidence.

    Either player can say he has the historic edge.

    Murray has the richer career and is at home, but Janowicz has to feel that he can beat him again.

How Murray Has Looked so Far at Wimbledon

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    To most tennis fans, Murray's first four matches were boring straight-set affairs. There's a sense of relief in polishing off matches that are expected to be wins. It also helps to conserve the physical energy and mental drain that can derail future matches.

    In that respect Murray gets an "A" up to the quarterfinals.

    Then the wheels almost came off against big-hitting Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals.

    Murray fretted as his passive game left short shots and easy winners for his opponent. He had to feel his way back into the match with no margin for error.

    Ultimately, he rallied from a two-set deficit to advance.

    The Verdasco match was a good test for Murray. He needed to be pushed and he responded.The Scotsman was once criticized for losing big matches. He has since learned to steel his nerves and play with intelligent resilience.

    His fitness is optimum and he should have little trouble bouncing back for the semifinals. It will arouse his mental focus and make him even more dangerous.

How Janowicz Has Looked so Far at Wimbledon

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    He is the survivor of the draw quarter that once featured Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The 24th-seeded player was aided by Wimbledon's slippery and fast grass in the first week. He won his first three matches in straight sets, highlighted by a powerful barrage of aces (30) and winners (59) against Nicolas Almagro. His powerful serve and forehand was supported by deft drop shots.

    In the fourth round, Janowicz fought off the stiff challenge from veteran Jurgen Melzer. He showed very effective footwork and defensive tennis, but especially the poise needed to win the decisive set. With victory, he kneeled to the grass as if he had won the tournament.

    Another promising point was Janowicz bouncing back in the quarterfinals to overwhelm compatriot and friend Lukasz Kubot in straight sets. He was able to conserve much of the physical and mental energy he will need in facing Murray.

    Each match brings a wealth of confidence and experience for the young Pole. He is a dangerous player, poised with his first big Grand Slam opportunity, and he has looked terrific.

Biggest X-Factors in the Semifinal

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    Crowd Noise: One school of thought stresses that Murray could feel the weight of personal and historical expectations. However, Murray has thrived recently under these conditions.

    He has learned to navigate match turbulence and visibly feeds off the crowd's noise. The Verdasco match showed his poise in focusing and fighting through a tough opponent and his own struggles.

    This is his advantage.

    Janowicz is also fiery and emotional, but knows that he will be the enemy. The quieter the crowd, the better his chances.

    He must control his temper if things do not go well, otherwise he may unravel quickly.

    Tiebreakers: Janowicz would love to confound Murray's great return game with his big serve. There's a strong likelihood of at least one tiebreaker, and Janowicz's serve might give him the edge.

    Mental Strength: Murray is comfortable with scowling and deriding himself when things go awry. He has continued to evolve with greater toughness in big matches, highlighted by his 2012 U.S. Open victory over Novak Djokovic.

    He was able to persevere through windy weather and his opponent's fierce comeback. He will be ready.

    Janowicz had an infamous moment at the 2013 Australian Open.

    In an opening set tiebreaker he lost his composure and railed at the chair umpire. Fortunately for him, he survived to win the match, but he cannot afford a meltdown against Murray.

    His mental strength is still under trial.

Murray Will Win If...

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    Murray must win the hustle game.

    This has always been his forte, and it's something that can demoralize an opponent. He is at his best when saving potential winners and fighting his way back with his speed and resolve.

    It's also a sign that he is locked into his match and playing well.

    The return game is also critical. The first set will likely be more difficult in getting a gauge on Janowicz's first serves.

    If Murray gets a gauge on Janwicz's serve quickly, he could cruise to an easy win.

    Murray must also serve smart. It will be more important for him to come through with his second serve, so that Janowicz's big forehand cannot rip service winners.

    A high percentage on the first serve will allow him to gain short balls and control the rallies.

    Above all, Murray wants to produce long rallies, especially when Janowicz is serving. He should be the better decision-maker and less prone to unforced errors during long exchanges.

    If he turns long rallies into cat-and-mouse strategy, it should be an easy day for the Scotsman.

Janowicz Will Win If...

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    Janowicz must serve big throughout the match. If he does not dominate this part of the matchup, he has little chance to advance.

    The first part of this formula is to win the psychological battle. Big servers flex their muscles, and it is this intimidation that allows them to tighten the game.

    He can slow down the tennis rhythm Murray wishes to establish. Nothing would please Janowicz more than defending easy holds and watching Murray take many walks from one receiving corner to the next.

    He must also demonstrate patience if it turns into a serving slugfest.

    Opportunities to break Murray's service game could be few, and if the points are short, he must be ready to capitalize just as quickly.

    An early break could bolster his belief. Winning the first set is much more important to his chances of winning the match than they are to the Scotsman.

    Janowicz must have faith in his backhand and attack with his forehand. If he gets cute or tries too many drop shots, the fleet-footed Murray will turn the match in his favor.

    He must dominate the first few shots of any rally and aggressively finish points.

Prediction

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    This is Murray's greatest opportunity to win Wimbledon.

    He will fight to the death before letting this slip away, and it's unlikely he will fall to his inexperienced opponent.

    He has all the ingredients and intangibles to control the match, make adjustments and persevere in a tight match.

    Following the Verdasco match, he will be alert. He also has a score to settle with Janowicz after his loss at the Paris Masters, so incentive will not be a problem.

    Janowicz can only win if he resembles something close to the legendary form of Pistol Pete Sampras.

    It's unlikely, but he also has a puncher's chance to do exactly that. If Janowicz wins he must do it in three or four sets.

    Janowicz might get one set off Murray, but the semifinal will likely see Murray pull away by the third set.

    Take Andy Murray in straight sets, but expect the sets to be tight with a slim margin of a few points. It could be an entertaining match with a lot of barking and fist pumps.

    Stay tuned.