There will be no repeats at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.
Defending men's champion Andy Murray was toppled by Grigor Dimitrov in a three-set rout on Wednesday, ensuring a seventh straight year where a different champion is crowned. Marion Bartoli's retirement last year already ensured a fourth straight year with turnover on the women's side.
Murray's loss was the highlight—or lowlight for the overwhelming pro-Murray crowd in attendance—of a quarterfinals slate on Wednesday that was jam-packed with the world's elite. A day after Rafael Nadal went out in flames, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer attempted to avoid their historical contemporary's fate.
Since neither were mentioned in the lede, I think it's safe for you to assume how that turned out.
On the women's side, only two more quarterfinal matches remained. Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep advanced in fine form, setting up a battle between arguably the two best up-and-coming women's players in the world. Bouchard advanced in a straight sets victory over ninth-seeded Angelique Kerber. Halep made equally slight work out of 19th-seeded Sabine Lisicki.
With the action in London over for the day, let's check in with a quick recap of all the happenings from the All England Club and examine what they mean.
|2014 Wimbledon Day 9 Results - Gentlemen's Draw|
|No. 1 Novak Djokovic def. No. 26 Marin Cilic||6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-2|
|No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov def. No. 3 Andy Murray||6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2|
|No. 4 Roger Federer def. No. 5 Stan Wawrinka||3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4|
|No. 8 Milos Raonic def. Nick Kyrgios||6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)|
|2014 Wimbledon Day 9 Results - Ladies' Draw|
|No. 3 Simona Halep def. No. 19 Sabine Lisicki||6-4, 6-0|
|No. 13 Eugenie Bouchard def. No. 9 Angelique Kerber||6-3, 6-4|
Murray Goes Down in Straight Sets
Looking back, it was hard to see this coming. Murray, for all of his foibles throughout the 2014 season, seemed to be finding the right path at the perfect time. He'd gone to the semis in Paris, hired a new coach in Amelie Mauresmo with whom he had a good rapport and gone through to the quarterfinals without dropping a set.
Just two rounds ago Dimitrov needed all five sets—including the last two—to take down Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Bulgarian had never gone past the second round at Wimbledon during his professional career. Even in a breakout season, this looked like a natural end of the line for Dimitrov.
From the opening serve, it was clear that wasn't the case.
Dimitrov put on a clinic from start to finish, overpowering Murray for a 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 triumph that at times made the defending champ look hapless. Facing Murray for his first time on grass, Dimitrov took advantage of a confident service game and numerous uncharacteristic errors from his challenger. Despite struggling with accuracy on his first serve, he was able to win two thirds of his second serves and over three quarters of his first serves that went in.
Murray, meanwhile, looked out of sorts. He hit only two winners in the first set and lost eight of his 13 serve points.
"As soon as we started warming up I sensed that his game was not at the highest level but at the same time I was feeling pretty confident," Dimitrov told reporters. "The first set really helped me get into a good rhythm and then I was just holding my ground throughout the whole match."
Murray got his game under much better control in the second set. The pair traded off breaks and the match generally looked like it could shift in any direction. Dimitrov was able to put himself in position for a quick close out thanks to more Murray errors in the 7-4 tiebreak. At that point, the third set felt and became academic. Dimitrov earned two breaks and took only 35 minutes to advance to his first Grand Slam semifinal.
"To win any tournament back-to-back, let alone back-to-back on a surface like this which sometimes rests on a few points in a set, it's not always going to go your way," Murray said.
Djokovic, Federer, Raonic Survive Scares to Advance
The few remaining fans who subscribe to this weird Djokovic vs. Nadal battle—pro tip: it's OK to like both—had to be sweating bullets Wednesday afternoon. A day after basking in schadenfreudian glee that Nadal was unseated by the unheralded Nick Kyrgios (about whom more anon), Djokovic was left battling for his life in a match most thought he'd steamroll through.
Marin Cilic battled back from a 6-1 trouncing in the first set to take the next two, playing a style that left him constantly walking on a tightrope. Cilic was going for the throat on nearly every shot. He was banking on painting the lines more often than turning in unforced errors, and in the second and third set he found Djokovic a little flat-footed from the aggression.
With his back against the wall, though, the Serb turned up his own play—especially on the serve. After giving away 39 percent of his serve points in the second and third sets, Djokovic allowed Cilic to go 7-of-41 (17 percent) the rest of the way. Couple that with a curious toning down of Cilic's aggression—the winners and unforced errors both bottomed out as the match wore on—and got back in control for consecutive 6-2 wins.
"Today was a tough five-setter," Djokovic told reporters. "I played a couple of bad games in the second, and in the third, I had a few chances to get back. In last two sets, I regained control, swinging through the ball with stability in my groundstrokes."
For a while, it also looked like Federer would be on his way out as well. Stan Wawrinka, who earlier this year overtook Federer's throne as the world's top-rated Swiss player (a crown Federer held since the Ottoman Empire), again looked like the younger and more dominant player in the first set. Wawrinka won all 11 of his first serve points and converted a key break to take the first set 6-3.
That would be Wawrinka's last break.
In the second, both players traded service wins until a tiebreaker that reshaped the entire match. Federer, like he has so many times, willed himself to a 7-5 win to take the set 7-6 and turned in consecutive incredible performances on his serves in the third and fourth. He allowed Wawrinka to take just 4-of-24 receiving points in the third set, which also saw him make only a single unforced error.
For the match, Federer hit 46 winners against just 14 gaffes. Other than the first set for Wawrinka, neither player was overly dominant. Federer merely hit the right shots when they were needed—e.g. break points—and held when he was supposed to.
In the remaining quarterfinal, Milos Raonic put on an absolutely scintillating display of power and control. The 23-year-old Canadian struck 39 aces and struck 73 winners in his four-set win over Kyrgios. For all of the talk about Federer's bracket "clearing up" when Nadal went down Tuesday, Raonic has the type of power and is playing with enough confidence to give the Swiss trouble.
Much Ado About Nothing on the Women's Side
Every men's favorite was upset or looked very much like he was headed that way Wednesday. The results played out the exact opposite way for the women.
Halep and Bouchard advanced to their semifinals clash with relatively few hiccups. Halep overcame a break to steal two serves from Sabine Lisicki in the first set before utterly demoralizing her in the second. The Romanian allowed Lisicki to win only three return points the entire second set and took two thirds of her opponent's own serves.
That 6-0 win was as dominant as anyone has looked in a Grand Slam quarterfinal all season—male or female.
“When the momentum goes one way and a player like Simona gets the confidence, then she goes even more for the lines,” Lisicki told reporters. “She was hitting the corners of the court, so it was getting more and more difficult to turn it around. I tried everything that I could today, but she was better.”
Bouchard wasn't quite as dominant in her win over Angelique Kerber. She also wasn't on the court very long, either. The rising Canadian's 6-3, 6-4 win took all of 72 minutes, as Bouchard came out aggressive in crashing the net and placing her serve in difficult spots. She won 81 percent of her first serve points and managed a very solid 29 winners.
Unforced errors were an issue, as were blown opportunities. It's not too often a player converts only three of 13 break points and manages to see another round. But Kerber converted one of eight break chances on her own, leaving both players feeling as if they left something on the court.
Bouchard is the only woman on tour to make the semifinals of all three Grand Slam tournaments. Her first two runs at a final ended in failure, first with a defeat from Li Na at the Australian and then Maria Sharapova at the French. Both women would go on to win those respective majors. That's a good sign for Halep, herself looking to culminate a breakout 2014 with her first Slam.
Or, perhaps, the third time will be the charm for Bouchard.
All stats via Wimbledon.com.
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