Wimbledon 2014: Men's Semifinal: Dimitrov vs. Djokovic Preview and Prediction

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

Wimbledon 2014: Men's Semifinal: Dimitrov vs. Djokovic Preview and Prediction

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    At first, Grigor Dimitrov was simply hopeful he’d reach the second week of Wimbledon. “I would like to get into the second week – and why not go even further? I’m trying to embrace the moments here and have flashbacks to four years ago. Grass is a special place and it is great you can enjoy a couple of weeks per year on it," as was reported by Wimbledon.com.

    He’s not only in the second week, he’s deep into the week and one match away from a berth in Sunday’s final. But he still has one more match to win before that against last year’s runner-up, Novak Djokovic.

    Djokovic overcame a five-set test against Marin Cilic by regrouping after losing Sets 3 and 4. Djokovic remained steady and confident—not to mention upright—despite spending a good chunk of this match skidding and slipping on the grass.

    Now that the semifinals are locked up, let’s take a look at how these two match up.

Who Has the Historical Edge?

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Novak Djokovic has the historical edge (three matches to one) over Grigor Dimitrov. You don’t have to look too far back to find where these two last played. 

    Djokovic won the last match in the French Open in straight sets. Prior to that, Dimitrov beat Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Madrid. Both matches were in the round of 32. Now they’re in the round of four.

    The other two matches they played were on hard court with both going to Djokovic.

    Who will win out? The one with the experience and six majors? Or the upstart who won the junior event in 2008?

Dimitrov at Wimbledon

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    "Baby Fed," as Dimitrov has been affectionately called, hasn’t had his way at Wimbledon. In his four previous trips to the All England Club, he bounced out of the tournament in the first, second, second and second rounds. Far from inspiring.

    But in 2014, he’s on the verge of reaching the final after his straight-set win over defending champion Andy Murray. Dimitrov took advantage of a lackluster Murray and didn’t let up. He didn’t play down to Murray. Rather, Dimitrov made quick work of Murray and will be considerably rested for his next match.

    Dimitrov needed five sets in his third-round match against Alexandr Dolgopolov, but beyond that Dimitrov has won all his matches in straight sets.

    Dimitrov is also the 2008 junior Wimbledon champion.

Djokovic at Wimbledon

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Djokovic won his first Wimbledon after a couple of years of frustration. In 2009, he reached the quarterfinals. In 2010, he bounced out of the semifinals. In 2011, he won the tournament. He was a semifinalist in 2012 and runner-up a year ago.

    Yes, Djokovic is good—real good—at Wimbledon. He turned away Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals, but it took Djokovic five sets to do it. Not only that, but he trailed two sets to one entering the fourth.

    This year marks the fifth straight year Djokovic has reached at least the semifinals.

The Biggest X-Factors

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Dimitrov’s serve has been huge, and his game has been clean. In his last two matches he’s had just 18 unforced errors in each. He’s been alarmingly steady with his ratio of winners to unforced errors—always right around 2-1.

    And as Wimbledon.com's Ron Atkin noted: “As a highly-qualified spotter of dark horses John McEnroe is on record with the opinion that if none of the Big Four wins Wimbledon this year the title could go to the fast-rising Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov." 

    Dimitrov has that potential since he personally axed one of the Big 4 in Andy Murray. Rafael Nadal went down and now Dimitrov has a shot at slaying another in Djokovic.

    Djokovic scrambled to beat Cilic in the quarterfinals. When Djokovic’s feet slipped out from under him, it put him at a unique disadvantage. Cilic’s big serve gave Djokovic some trouble, but once Djokovic sensed a shift in the tide and drove through his shots, he quickly took over the match.

    It will be up to Dimitrov to keep Djokovic moving side to side on that baseline.

Dimitrov Will Win If...

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    He lives up to his potential.

    It appears he’s well on his way to living up to his Baby Fed nickname. The real Roger Federer has won seven of these Wimbledons and has ridden his cool, collected demeanor to 17 total majors.

    Dimitrov hasn’t been that tested throughout this tournament. He disposed of Andy Murray like he was a first-round qualifier. If Dimitrov can work off his big first serve and play the type of clean tennis he’s illustrated thus far, he’ll be tough to handle in the semis and possibly the finals.

Djokovic Will Win If...

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    He seizes the match early.

    Dimitrov is very steady and undemonstrative. He has a quiet confidence that he channels right through his racket. Djokovic can suck that out of Dimitrov by imposing his will as the No. 2 player in the world.

    Dimitrov is on the rise, but he’s not quite ready for his apotheosis. Djokovic wasn’t as clean in his match against Cilic. "Djoker" had 32 winners to 32 unforced errors and three double faults. Yet he survived. So…


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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    This match will be a war. Djokovic has the historical edge, and it appears he's going to keep adding to his 3-1 lead over Dimitrov.

    You could look at Djokovic’s five-setter against Cilic as a chink in the armor or as a sign that he was able to power through a momentary blip of weakness.

    Djokovic landed 70 percent of his first serves against Cilic while Dimitrov landed just 63 percent against Andy Murray.

    Djokovic and Dimitrov have strong, aggressive strokes, and it will ultimately come down to who can put the other in a slightly less powerful stance. That edge, in this instance, goes to Djokovic in five sets.