London (Olympics) – semifinals
(3)Andy Murray d. (2)Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 [2:00 h]
Murray was screaming, cursing, bleeding (left knee), spitting, fist-pumping, hitting his forehead with an open palm, but most of all – he was playing his best tennis, winning plenty of incredible baseline rallies. In short, he did all he could to prevail this ‘dogfight’, and didn’t disappoint the enthusiastic local fans in the end. Both sets had very similar progress, in both Djokovic looked like a dominant figure in the first ten games. In the 1st set Murray needed four ‘deuces’ to held his serve for a 4:3 lead, in the 2nd set the Brit saved a break point in four games (!) – 0:0, 1:1, 4:4, 5:5. Djokovic should have converted his last chance, but on a break point he played too casual forehand from a ‘deuce-box’ creating a possibility for Murray to get back into the rally – “Practically every service game, I had chance in the second set to make a break, especially the one at 5-all. It’s a disappointing loss. But he deserves to be in the final.” In the ultimate game Murray quickly obtained a triple match point. Djokovic made a weird decision attacking the net after the serve – Murray played a good return and the Serb reminded he’s not a virtuoso at the net zone. This outcome means Federer keeps the No. 1 spot for another weeks, at least until the US Open. It also means Murray will get the first Olympic medal in tennis for Great Britain in 100 years (!) – Charles Dixon * won the silver medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Murray said: “Before the tournament started that was the goal [to] try and win a medal. It’s been an amazing month and one of the best of my career. The support that I have had over the last month, after Wimbledon, I really needed it.” Stats of the match
* He lost to Andre Gobert of France 6-8, 4-6, 4-6. Before the Open era tennis events were held at the Olympics in years 1896-1924.
(1)Roger Federer d. (8)Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 7-6(5), 19-17 [4:26 h]
It was an extraordinary 3-set battle. Federer entered this semifinal with an overwhelming 12-2 H2H record, including five wins this season. Actually all Federer’s wins came after similar pattern of a game-plan: mixing the pace with different rotations, and forcing DelPo to errors with short backhand slices. This time this tactics couldn’t work because Del Potro improved volley, implemented solid slice, also as an approach shot, and used the grass speed to obtain many free points, serving predictably on Federer’s backhand, but hard enough to get many cheap points directly after the serve or in the next two/three shots. I didn’t expect he would hold 20 consecutive service games. He broke in the 1st set for a 5:3 lead thanks to two very good returns. Both guys had their break point chances in the 2nd set, Federer leading 1:0 & 3:2, DelPo at 2-all and 4-all, so the Argentine had a mini-match point, it happened when Federer wasted a 40/0 lead with a bunch of silly errors – erased the scare with a forehand winner though. The Swiss forced himself to exceptional effort in defense to get a mini-break in the tie-break. Del Potro leveled up from 1:4 to 4:4, but lost the following two points. Federer converted the second set point with an out-wide ace. The pressure in the deciding set raised, Del Potro responded calmly, he was as cool as Bjorn Borg during his biggest dramatic wins. However, his physical endurance was doubtful – he decided to let a few balls go, a break for Federer seemed a matter of time. Del Potro survived difficult holds in four games, including three games with break points and one with 0/30 (at 8-all) when stunned the crowd winning a rally playing three volleys with the third and the last one, diving! And finally, Federer broke in the 19th game (DelPo’s two double faults). Although he had easily won his last ten service games, Del Potro broke back to ‘love’! It boosted Del Potro’s energy level, and he won another four service games quite convincingly. His big chance came twice, first at 12:11 (30/0) – Federer struck an ace and three service winners, afterwards at 15:14 (deuce) – sent a forehand long after Federer’s second serve. The Swiss in the previous game had a triple mini-match point – Del Potro won five points in a row demonstrating only powerful shots! At 17:17 Del Potro lost his serve to ’15’ making a backhand error after Federer’s desperate forehand slice – the Swiss slided on a seedy grass like on a clay-court. The second attempt for him to serve the match out was successful, albeit Del Potro won three points in that game. It’s the longest ‘best of three’ singles match in history – the previous record was 4:20 hrs as Nduka Odizor battled past Guy Forget 7-6 4-6 22-20 at Queens Club 1987. Federer has now guaranteed at least the silver medal, in turn Del Potro has a tough task to regroup and motivate himself before the 3rd place match. “It is tough to speak now, I feel sad,” said Del Potro. “But Roger played a fantastic match, he is a good winner. I’m very sad at the moment. It’s not an easy situation. Someone always has to win these matches and today it was him.” Stats of the match
Del Potro is relatively young, he has theoretically at least one Olympics ahead, maybe better luck next time… He should take an effort of 32-year-old Michael Llodra as a positive example. The Frenchman four years ago in Beijing lost an Olympic semifinal match as a favorite teaming up Arnaud Clement 17-19 in the 3rd set to the Swedish pair (Aspelin/T.Johansson). When Del Potro lost his match to Federer, Llodra alongside Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was playing on Court No. 1 against the Spanish duo Felicnao Lopez and David Ferrer. The Spaniards had many opportunities to win the match, they led in the deciding set: *2:0 (40/0), 5:4 (30/0), 9:8 (40/0), 11:10 (adv.) – all four match points were saved on Llodra’s serve. At 16-all the Spaniards led 40/15 on Ferrer’s serve but lost that game – Ferrer automatically broke his racquet in anger (his raised the ball too high playing a passing-shot and Tsonga made a put away with his double-handed backhand volley). In the following game the serving Llodra won three straight points since 15/30, and the Frenchmen celebrated the 6-3 4-6 18-16 victory in ecstasy. Llodra: “Four years ago I was just two points off a medal so obviously I am delighted I will go home with one this time.” This dramatic semifinal lasted 3 hours 30 minutes. Earlier, in the first semifinal, the Bryans like Llodra, avenged their semifinal loss from Beijing, outplaying the other French team: Julien Benneteau / Richard Gasquet 6-4 6-4.
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