Wimbledon 2010: Men's Semifinal Preview
This year's Wimbledon semifinal bracket will be without a familiar face for the first time since 2003. Roger Federer's stunning loss to Tomas Berdych was without question a landmine that left the remaining men in the field with an equal opportunity of taking home the title.
Who would have thought that of the top four seeds, Federer's name would be inconspicuously absent come Friday? Dropping down to No. 3 in the world when Monday's new rankings are released, Federer will have an unfamiliar armchair view of this year's final four.
What are the chances that he'll even watch?
Berdych's first Wimbledon semifinal will be followed through a microscope when he faces Novak Djokovic, while 2008 champion Rafael Nadal will go toe-to-toe against top British hopeful Andy Murray.
All credit must be given to the fighting foursome who remain alive in the hunt for the most elusive title the sport has to offer.
Will we see a British male in the finals for the first time since 1936, or will Nadal place himself in prime position for his eighth Slam title?
Will Djokovic salvage his unsatisfactory year, or will Berdych finally dismiss his underachieving label?
The pairings have been made, and now all that remains are a few thoughts on how it may all go down.
Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych
Djokovic leads the pair's head-to-head series, 2-0.
What we have here is two men that weren't supposed to make it this far. For Djokovic, his form entering Wimbledon provided little in the way of a resounding result. Dusted early and often throughout the season, Djokovic had battled his technique, coaching changes, and of course, mother nature. Suffering nine losses before entering the tournament, Djokovic's progress to the semifinals is by far his best result of 2010.
Will the new world No. 2 have a enough to blindside the potent arsenal of the new Czech bomber?
The Birdman could be deemed the new Robin Soderling of this season. Reaching the Miami final in March, Berdych advanced to the final four at the French Open, before plowing through the field in London.
Defeating Federer for a second straight time on Wednesday, Berdych solidified himself as a big match player. But will the daunting Czech have enough mental fortitude to advance to his first career Grand Slam final?
Djokovic will undoubtedly hold the experience card between the two. Capturing the 2008 Australian Open, Djokovic has also reached seven other Grand Slam semifinals. Taking out the competent challenge of Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth-round, Djokovic benefited from not facing Andy Roddick, thanks in large part to Yen-Hsun Lu.
We are all well-aware of Djokovic's ability to go AWOL during close matches, but those losses have usually consisted of him being the underdog—excluding his Aussie Open meltdown this year against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
With that said, one would have to favor Djokovic because of his wherewithal to grind it out. Berdych may have his machine gun ground-strokes ready to paint the lines, but Djokovic's defensive ability will be pay dividends when it gets close.
I'm not totally ruling out Berdych in this contest, for the primary reason that he seems to be finally enjoying himself on Tour. He's under a calm aura of confidence at the moment, and his game has reaped the rewards.
Once bound to a cold robotic stare, Berdych now embodies the persona and execution of a formidable Grand Slam contender.
All in all, this match will come down to Djokovic's experience and defense versus Berdych's power and eagerness.
If recent results have taught us anything, experience—moreso at Wimbledon—usually wins out.
Pick: Djokovic in five sets
Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray
Nadal leads the pair's head-to-head series, 7-3.
The bottom half of the draw was filled to the brim when this contest was confirmed. Pitting two of the fan favorites against one other in the marquee match up of the tournament, Nadal and Murray will be the talk of London come Friday.
For Murray, he's tied his best-ever showing at Wimbledon. Losing a close five-setter to Roddick last year, Murray has lost only one set en route to the semifinals this year. The Brit continues to have the weight of Nation's expectations on his shoulders, but for one reason or another (insert World Cup frenzy here) the pressure has been less this year than before.
We know how much this match means to Murray, and with Federer out of the way, the time couldn't be better for a title march.
However, Murray does have a determined chap in his way, one who has never taught the meaning of giving anyone an opportunity that they haven't earned.
Bidding for his second career Euro Slam, Nadal continues to prove that his trials and tribulations of last year are behind him. Dispatching Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals, Nadal's knees and focus were spot on against the Swede.
Using his cross-court forehand and slice serve to great effect, Nadal's cross-court backhand will have to improve when he faces Murray.
Again, history and experience will play a big part in this one. Murray has proven that he can defeat Nadal at the hard-court Majors, but he's come up short on the slower surfaces. Nadal did defeat Murray during their lone Wimbledon match, but Nadal was in untouchable form during his 2008 campaign.
The Spaniard still remains close to his best, and his variety-driven game is better suited to grass. Although Murray's game consists of a great deal of craft and artistry, Nadal's arsenal holds a better slice and far more topspin.
Nadal will also hold the advantage in the forehand and power department, while Murray's serve produces slightly more pop.
There's no doubt that this is a tough one to call, but considering that Nadal has had to battle more than Murray during the event—that's never a negative for Nadal—the Spaniard will have the confidence in his shots to fall back on.
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut gave us the longest match of the event, but Nadal and Murray could very well partake in the best match of the year.
Settle in, turn off all mobile devices, and get the popcorn ready bright and early.
I've gone against Murray in his previous two matches—Murray fans can thank me later—and if that's an indicator as to what the result of this match is going to be, then I'll stay with my initial pick before the fortnight began and choose the current world No. 1 and tournament second seed.
Pick: Nadal in five sets
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