Wimbledon 2014: Burning Questions for the Final Rounds at the All England Club

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

Wimbledon 2014: Burning Questions for the Final Rounds at the All England Club

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    The second week started with a big Monday of fourth-round action at Wimbledon. 

    The morning began with Eugenie Bouchard showing her class in a straight-sets win, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, over Alize Cornet, otherwise known as "the woman who knocked off Serena Williams."

    Andy Murray, the defending champion, advanced with relative ease, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), and has yet to drop a set in this year's Wimbledon.

    There's so much density of talent in each bracket: Four to six men and women could easily win this tournament. Big Ben is ticking, so it's onto the burning questions before time runs out.

Can Roger Federer Reclaim the Glory?

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    There may be no one hungrier to reach the final than Roger Federer.

    He's had to hear everyone say he's washed up at the age of 32. He lost in the second round of this very tournament a year ago. He's won this tournament seven times, most recently in 2012. 

    Federer put on a clinic in Week 1.

    He barely broke a sweat and looked like he was putting more effort into his Rolex commercials than he was through the first three rounds. Federer said afterward on Wimbledon's website, via Kate Battersby:

    I’m pleased, absolutely. It’s been a good first week for me. I’ve been playing well, feeling good. Didn’t drop any sets. Wasn’t really in danger in any of the matches. Got a lot of info from the first week on how I need to play moving forward.

    Should Federer reach the quarterfinals, he'd face Stan Wawrinka, a player Federer has owned, 13-2. Wawrinka won the last match, but that was on clay in the Monte Carlo final. The two have never played on grass.

    A Federer win will likely put him in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal.

    The tennis world would love to see Federer and Nadal play again. The two haven't faced one another since the 2014 Australian Open, where Nadal won in straight sets. 

    Federer's road to reclaim the glory and win his eighth Wimbledon won't be easy, but he's playing some of his best tennis right now and has to be considered a major threat to win.

Will Eugenie Bouchard Break Through to the Other Side?

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Eugenie Bouchard may be the most intimidating 20-year-old since Serena Williams.

    Staring across the net against Bouchard has to be like seeing William Wallace eye-to-eye: unsettling and petrifying. No amount of Alize Cornet dropping to her knees after errant first serves was going to shake Bouchard.

    Bouchard awaits her quarterfinal match against either Angelique Kerber or Maria Sharapova.

    Kerber's record against Sharapova is just 1-4, which likely means Bouchard will get a rematch against Sharapova. The two faced off against one another in the French Open semis.

    The way Bouchard put away Cornet was so professional. Bouchard dropped four straight points in a first-set tiebreak and still went on to win the set. She broke Cornet's serve late in the second set after being down a game and still came back to close out the second set 7-5.

    Bouchard said afterwards in the National Post:

    We had some tough points, she has good wheels. I had to really try and finish off the point. That made for some really tough, physical points. It’s definitely the most physical match I’ve played I think this tournament.

    Bouchard has reached the semis in every major so far this season. To reach her third, she'll have to thwart the woman who beat her just a few weeks ago in the French Open. Bouchard looks ready and, not to mention, fearsome. 

    And somebody, please, wipe the drool off Jim Parsons' face. 

Does Andy Murray Have What It Takes to Reach the Final and Repeat?

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    If ever there was a tournament where Andy Murray could roll into the final, it would be Wimbledon.

    He has one speed bump in his way before he will likely face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic: Grigor Dimitrov.

    Murray faces Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. Murray is 3-1 against Dimitrov, and with the way Murray's been handling the competition at Wimbledon, there's no reason to think Murray can't coast into the semifinals.

    Murray has yet to drop a set in this tournament and has played in just one tiebreak. He has 147 winners to 52 unforced errors.

    Also, the pressure of winning this tournament is not quite as intense. He's already won his hometown major, so he doesn't necessarily have to placate the rabid British masses (though they could use a jolt of nationalism given how their football team played in the World Cup). 

    Facing Djokovic in the semifinals would be a rematch of last year's title match, which Murray won in straight sets. 

    As reported by Stephen Wilson of the Associated Press, Murray said after his fourth-round match:

    All of the matches are tough. Everyone that’s in the quarterfinals of Slams, they’re playing top tennis. I just have to do what I’ve got to do and concentrate on my side of the court. If I play well, I’ll make it tough for them.


Can Sharapova Play Like 2004 All over Again?

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since Maria Sharapova came onto the scene and defeated Serena Williams for the Wimbledon title. 

    Sharapova has won five majors but hasn't reclaimed the Wimbledon serving platter since 2004. She's been playing spectacular tennis, and the way she dismantled Alison Riske in the third round was downright mean. 

    Sharapova has two bagels on her scorecard and has lost just seven games over the course of the first three rounds. Her 54 winners have been scorching and her errors (34) have been manageable and haven't put her in deep water.

    Sharapova had trouble in the French Open, dropping opening sets then having to grind her way to three-set wins. She has spared herself that grief early in this tournament and remains the favorite to win her second Wimbledon. 

    All that is predicated on whether she gets by her presumed fourth-round match against Eugenie Bouchard, a rematch of the French Open semifinals.

Will Nadal's First-Set Stumbles Bite Him in Week 2?

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Rafael Nadal has been brilliant if you take his first sets and call them rough drafts. In each of Nadal's three matches, he has dropped the first set.

    Over the course of the tournament, you can make an argument that he's played an extra match of tennis as opposed to many of his peers. After the first match, especially in his third-round trouncing of Mikhail Kukushkin, he's looked like the 14-time Grand Slam winner that he is.

    That was Week 1.

    This is Week 2, and he's got a potential semifinal against his old rival, Roger Federer. Nadal has the historical edge over Federer, but Nadal can't afford to be giving away first sets and forcing himself into unnecessary deficits. 

    Nadal's draw the rest of the way is far from easy, and if he can't tighten up that first set, he could be in trouble.

Will the Top Half of the Women's Bracket Fall Victim to Kvitova?

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Petra Kvitova coasted into the quarterfinals and will face Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, the 43rd-ranked player in the world.

    In Strycova's 10 previous Wimbledon appearances, she's never made it further than the third round. Now she runs into a former champion in Kvitova.

    The top half of the women's draw still has Eugenie Bouchard, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova.

    The bottom half boasts nobody in the top 20. Kvitova has the 3-1 edge over Strycova, though they haven't met since 2012.

    Relative to the top draw, Kvitova has the easier road and could come out of the bottom less taxed than any of the big names in the top half.

    Say Bouchard reaches the final. This would be her path: defeated the player who beat Serena Williams, defeated the French Open winner, defeated the player who lost in the French Open final (assuming those top seeds advance).

    That's a heavy mental and physical burden for Bouchard to shoulder. Kvitova could be sitting there ready to pick off whoever comes out of that top draw.