Wimbledon is no place for old men. At 32 and 27, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic wouldn't be considered old in most places, but Wimbledon is not most places. A pair of 23-year-olds, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Milos Raonic of Canada, will be looking to dethrone the tennis giants Friday in the Wimbledon semifinals.
Dimitrov and Djokovic will play at 8 a.m. ET, followed by Raonic and Federer at approximately 11 a.m. ET. The winners will play on Sunday for the championship.
Dimitrov is coming off of an impressive victory over Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Dimitrov thoroughly dismantled the defending Wimbledon champion, beating him in straight sets. Murray helped Dimitrov out by committing 37 unforced errors, something Djokovic isn't likely to do.
Raonic got here by defeating Nick Kyrgios, the 19-year-old Australian who upset Rafael Nadal in the round of 16. Raonic won in four sets behind his powerful serve. He had 39 aces and only two double faults. Raonic will notice a major difference when he faces Federer. The seven-time Wimbledon champion will not be intimidated by the stage and will certainly be able to handle Raonic's serve better.
Over the past 10 years, the average age of the Wimbledon champion is 24.7 years old. Only twice in that time span has the champion been 27 or older. Federer won in 2009 at age 27, and again in 2012 at age 30. The last player to be as old as Federer is now (32) and win Wimbledon was Jaroslav Drobny in 1954. He was 32 years old.
Per Wimbledon.com, after his match with Murray, Dimitrov was asked about the performance of the younger players at Wimbledon.
We want to win. I mean, I think the younger guys, we want to come on that stage. We strive for this. I think we're thirsty for that. We want to prove ourselves. We also want to prove to the big guys that we're around the corner.
Both Dimitrov and Raonic expect to be here. They know the history of tennis, and they know they are in the prime of their careers. Confidence is often associated with young players, and these two are no exception.
'Fear is out of the picture,' said Dimitrov at his press conference. 'I need to just go again through my routines, go through just the regular day for me. Then I got to sort of sit down at night and see the tactics to whoever I got to play.'
It's one thing to lack fear against the No. 1 player in the world, but it's quite another to lack fear against perhaps the greatest player of all time. Raonic will be doing his best to forget the track record of his opponent. Raonic said at his press conference:
I'm going to step out there and I'm not playing the seven-time Wimbledon champion. I'm not playing a 32-year-old man. I'm not playing father of two sets of twins, which is a very low possibility I bet to do. I'm not playing the guy that's won whatever he's won, which I could probably list quite vividly. I'm playing a guy that is standing in my way of what I want to achieve, and I've got to focus on everything that's there, on the situation, how best to deal with it to give myself the best possibilities to achieve what I want.
The fans are loving this faceoff between the two generations, but there seems to be more belief in Dimitrov than Raonic.
It's understandable. Dimitrov has won three singles tournaments this year, the latest being the Aegon Championship, which is played on grass.
Raonic hasn't been playing poorly; in fact, he reached the quarterfinals at the French Open, but he hasn't defeated a big-name player this tournament. Dimitrov got that when he defeated Murray.
Raonic will certainly have that if he beats Federer, but fans aren't going to back him until they see him perform when the pressure is at its highest. Raonic may think he's felt pressure before, but nothing he's faced has matched playing Roger Federer at Centre Court in the semifinals of Wimbledon.
After the dust settles and both matches have been played, Dimitrov will be playing Federer for the Wimbledon championship on Sunday. For a changing of the guard to take place, what better matchup could one ask for? The new generation of tennis players are making their mark, but there's still one cranky seven-time champion who'll do his best to delay their ascension to the top.