Wimbledon 2014: Evaluating Top Players' Paths to Championship Final

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Wimbledon 2014: Evaluating Top Players' Paths to Championship Final
Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

With three rounds of Wimbledon 2014 out of the way, the narrowing field has taken shape and the majority of players can truly envision themselves with a place in the finals.

We know that top stars like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are still mixing it up with lower-ranked foes, once again proving they have the staying power and focus to win big tournaments.

On the other hand, we've seen stars like Venus and Serena Williams falter in the early rounds.

Now that the field has crystallized, let's take a look at some of the top stars' paths to the championship matches.

 

Novak Djokovic

Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Novak Djokovic is already through to the quarterfinals, courtesy of a resounding 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) over the quickly-fading Jo Wilfried-Tsonga.

Djokovic sees his victory as a confidence boost, as the hulking Tsonga's serve-and-volley style is well-suited to Wimbledon's grass and can often force players into mistakes.

[Tsonga's] a top player and he loves the big stage," Djokovic told reporters. "So to be able to win against him in straight sets on the surface that I feel suits him the most is a great result. I was very happy with [my] consistency today, mental consistency, and variety in my game."

His next opponent, Marin Cilic, is in fine form this tournament. Cilic defeated Jeremy Chardy in straight sets in the round of 16 and has dropped just two sets in the entire tournament.

Djokovic will need to have his return game ready to combat Cilic's blistering serve. The 25-year-old Croat racked up an astonishing 33 aces against Chardy.

If Djokovic can get past Cilic, he will likely face Andy Murray in the semifinals—of course, Murray will have to beat an impressive Grigor Dimitrov to set up that clash.

Djokovic has beaten Murray in 12 of their 20 meetings. It is a slight advantage, but the Scot has something of a home-court advantage at the All England Club and is the defending champion. Dimitrov has beaten Djokovic just once in his career and doesn't have the same level of experience as Murray.

Djokovic would face a challenge from both of these potential foes and may be hoping for a Dimitrov victory to boost his chances of reaching the final.

 

Simona Halep

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Simona Halep's favorable draw continues against unranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. Diyas has been strong in this tournament so far, but will likely be no match for Halep's aggressive, dominant play.

Halep should be feeling confident, as SI Tennis noted she's not used to playing on the Wimbledon grass once it gets this worn down:

Assuming she obtains a victory over Diyas, Halep could then be looking forward to a match against No. 19 Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals.

Lisicki has had an uneven year so far, with just an 8-8 record in singles play. Halep has suffered setbacks of her own in recent tournaments, but she should be confident enough to dispatch Lisicki with relative ease.

Halep's biggest roadblock to a Wimbledon final is of course Maria Sharapova, who would meet her in the semifinals.

Both players would be happy about their chances with the Williams sisters out of the competition. The victor in this potential clash could very well end up the winner of the tournament.

 

Rafael Nadal

Ben Curtis/Associated Press

Rafael Nadal still has to get out of the round of 16, so his path is a bit more open-ended than Djokovic's.

Nadal will take on 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday, hoping to avoid a crushing upset. These two have never tangled on a tennis court before, so Nadal won't have an early read on Kyrgios.

Kyrgios has been sensational at Wimbledon this year. He came back from two sets down and saved nine match points to defeat No. 13 Richard Gasquet in the third round of the tournament.

The New York Times' Christopher Clarey saw something extraordinary in Kyrgios during his match against Gasquet:

Beyond Kyrgios, Nadal would face the winner of the Milos Raonic-Kei Nishikori match. Nadal is a combined 12-0 against that tandem. Yes, anything can happen at Wimbledon, but it's fairly safe to say Nadal wouldn't have trouble dispatching either of those two foes.

His likeliest opponent in the semifinals would be his old nemesis, Federer.

Nadal might have trouble on the Wimbledon grass against a smooth operator like Federer, so the Swiss legend is easily his biggest impediment to his first Wimbledon victory since 2010.

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