For Novak Djokovic's side, check out Long John Silver's contribution here.
All of Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinal matches at Wimbledon are intriguing for different reasons. Probably the most interesting, in terms the quality of play, will be when world No. 4 Novak Djokovic takes on 31-year-old former No. 2 Tommy Haas.
Both men have played high-quality tennis so far in this event, while showing no small amount of determination.
Furthermore, there is a considerable contrast in their styles of play, which should also contribute toward making this match a thriller.
During his career, Haas has played many roles from Child Prodigy to Heir Apparent to Elder Statesman. He missed out on the status of Major Champion, which is a gap he’s now trying to fill before the end of his career.
Following his win in the grass court warm-up event in Halle—his first win in more than two years—Haas opened in London with a hard-fought four-set win over Alexander Peya.
In round two, he benefited from the early withdrawal of Frenchman Michael Llodra, and the extra rest may have saved him in round three.
There, he outlasted the rapidly rising Croat Marin Cilic 10-8 in the fifth set. In round four, he produced his most comprehensive win yet, beating Russian Igor Andreev in straights.
Haas has an all-court game capable of overwhelming opponents through sheer variety. However, now 31, one of the questions for Haas will be whether or not he can physically stay with the much younger Serb.
Will Win If
With his flowing one-handed backhand and greater comfort at net, Haas’ game lends itself more readily toward attacking than Djokovic, who is at his best when playing patiently from the backcourt.
Offense and an attacking mentality are going to be essential if Haas is going to prevail today. This means getting inside the court, hitting forward, and getting to net as often as possible.
This strategy makes it probable that Haas will commit a higher number of unforced errors than the Serb as well as get passed at net frequently, but that comes with the territory.
Throughout this event, Haas has shown a willingness to make errors for the sake of imposing his will.
Through four matches, he’s hit 33 double-faults, compared to Djokovic’s 15. While he’d certainly hope for cleaner service games, at least this shows that he’s not going to lose out of timidity.
Also, recent history may be on the German’s side. While Djokovic leads their head-to-head matchups 2-1, Haas defeated the Serb 6-1 in the third set of their clash in the Halle final.
Will Lose If
With his heavy, hard forehand and backboard of a backhand, Djokovic is the kind of player very, very few of the game’s elite could expect to beat from the baseline.
Furthermore, at 22, the Serb would love nothing more than to pin the older player at the baseline and make him chase balls.
Therefore, it is imperative that Haas stay on the offensive and disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm as much as he can.
A good start for Haas may be important, as he has in the past gotten discouraged early, especially against players who overwhelm him with their relentless consistency. Past losses to Lleyton Hewitt and Nikolay Davydenko in majors are good examples of this.
If it goes the distance, both players are probably going to show the hunger requisite for victory. After an up and down year, Djokovic wants to prove he belongs in the top five.
Haas, meanwhile, knows there's no better time for a major win.
Shots to Look For
One of the keys to Haas’ attack is going to be his backhand, particularly up the line. Two-handed backhands often have the advantage in protracted rallies, but a well-struck one-hander up-the-line can open up the court for Haas to attack.
This was a favorite play of Haas’ countryman Boris Becker, who used it to surprise baseliners like Michael Chang.
As I expect this match to pit Haas’ attack against Djokovic’s defense, I look for numerous fluctuations in momentum. Ultimately, this match should be a tight four-or five-setter.
Ultimately, either Haas’ experience will save him or his age will doom him.