Roger Federer and Andy Murray, just like last year were designated to play their matches on Centre Court, even the order was the same, first Federer, then Murray. Before the quarterfinals, the Scot said: “A lot of people have said to me that the quality of matches at the end of the Grand Slams has been unbelievable the last few years. People like seeing that, but I think upsets are part of any sport. […] They haven’t happened that much over the last few years in slams, but they will start happening more. I don’t think consistency from the top players can continue that much.” For the time being I think the gap between “eternal” fourth best player Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is very narrow, and perhaps either Spaniard or Frenchman will remove Murray from the No. 4 at the end of the year (on the assumption he doesn’t win a major), especially that the British hope has plenty of points to defend in the second half of the season.
Others great players of the 60’s and 70’s (Manolo Santana, Vijay Amritraj and Roger Taylor) joined Laver and Agassi to watch the most entertaining quarterfinal. Murray and Ferrer create very interesting match-up: Murray has better serve and more natural volley game, but Ferrer is more consistent from the baseline thus their matches are well balanced – mental resistance, physical preparation, shot selection and pure luck separate them when they face each other. They had already played long 4-setters in Melbourne and Paris, since London ’12 they’ve added another long 4-setter to their rivalry, a more dramatic one than two previous. Actually every set could have ended with a different outcome. Murray was two points away to take the first set tie-break but hit the net-cord with a cross-court backhand at 5-all. In the 2nd set Ferrer served for the set at 5:4 (lost to 15), in the tie-break led 5:2* and 6:5 (Murray saved the set point with an inside-out forehand – directly after Ferrer’s weak return). In the 3rd set the Spaniard had a game point to lead 5:4, but on ‘deuce’, Murray delivered two winning returns in a row. In the 4th set, Ferrer had 40/15 leading 4:3 (Murray four times escaped from a double break point). At 5-all the match was suspended for 24 minutes due to rain. After the resumption they both held services to “love” and the British crowd saw the third tie-break. Murray got the crucial mini-break at 5:3 with a winner down the line. His serve didn’t let him down at 5:4 – a service winner was followed up with an ace down the middle… The serve was the key factor for the Scot – he obtained thanks to 1st serves the most valuable points throughout the long battle. In terms of scorelines, Murray works on entrenched patterns – he has never lost first two sets tie-breaks (so close today) and always wins a 4th set tie-break leading two-sets-to-one # He has done it twice against Ferrer, last year in Melbourne also saved a set point in the 2nd set. “Obviously the goal now is to win the next match and try and get through to the final for the first time. I’m obviously happy. I’ve had a good run here the last few years, but I’m not satisfied with that. I want to try and go further.” analyzed Murray. “I think the key was in the second set, when I had one set point in the tie-break,” said Ferrer for whom it’s the end of the best streak on grass – 9 wins in succession. “But Andy, in important moments he played really good. He played more aggressive than me, and he was better.” Indeed, Murray was very aggressive and it paid dividents in the end.
# Murray’s 4-set wins with a 4th set tie-break:
US Open 2008: M.Llodra 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 Ausralian Open 2011: D.Ferrer 4-6, 7-6, 6-1, 7-6 Wimbledon 2011: I.Ljubicic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 US Open 2011: J.Isner 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 Wimbledon 2012: I.Karlovic 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 Wimbledon 2012: D.Ferrer 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6
Their rivalry reminds in some sense of the Federer-Youzhny one – two guys display similar stuff but always wins one of them. Obviously ‘Ali’ Tsonga and Kohlschreiber play backhands otherwise and their behavior is completely different but there’s resemblance in the way they think about gathering points, especially on faster surfaces. There’s a huge psychological difference between them though, and manifest itself in crucial stages of sets. After the match Tsonga leads 6-1 in their H2H but fully 7-0 in tie-breaks! This time there were played two breakers, even if the German cut the lead in the first one from 1:6 to 5:6 his facial expression was skeptical – Tsonga hit an ace DTL. In the second tie-break Tsonga was more concentrated and converted already the first chance. Kohlschreiber is one of the best 5-set players but hadn’t plenty left in the tank (it was his 12th match on grass this season – more than anyone) and lost his service twice in the set No. 4. Tsonga repeats his result from the last year’s event when he advanced to the semis stunning Federer on Centre Court. Stats of the match
(1)Novak Djokovic d. (31)Florian Mayer 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 [1:45 h]
‘Flo’ with his unorthodox tennis is able to steal some time before the best guys adjust themselves to his untypical proposal. In this match Djokovic needed a short rain-break to do this (the match was halted in the 8th game, Mayer led with a break early on). When they came back on court the Serb confirmed his superiority winning 8 out of 10 games. It was pretty one-sided quarterfinal, albeit Mayer had his slight chances in two sets – led 40/0 on return at 4-all in the 1st set and 30/0 at 4:3 in the 3rd – nonetheless Djokovic came up with big serves in the most vital moments, in the last game too, when he saved three break points and finished the contest with an ace down the middle. “After the first set, he played unbelievable, especially in the second set,” said Mayer. “He showed why he’s the best player right now in the world. He left me no chance in the second set. If I could have won the first set, maybe I would have had a small chance. But still it’s very, very tough to beat him.” Djokovic said before the clay-court season that Nadal would be the ultimate challenge on clay, I think he’d say the same thing about Federer on grass. Admittedly ‘Nole’ is the defending champion but never met Federer on grass, thus beating him on this surface might preserve Djokovic’s dominance in men’s tennis in a wider context. Stats of the match.
(3)Roger Federer d. (26)Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 [1:32 h]
Sometimes when two players face each other, both with similar game-styles, wins easily the one who plays every shot simply better. It’s the case of the Federer-Youzhny rivalry. The Russian in my opinion is one of the most talented players of his generation but he is just a much more weaker reflection of Federer. When they met for the fourth time (Halle 2003), Youzhny played a tie-break after winning the 1st set, it was their only match when the Russian was within a couple points of beating his Swiss peer (Fed is ten months older to be precise). Because he had lost most of their matches quickly, a good beginning of every another meeting is exceptionally important. This time it didn’t happen from Youzhny’s perspective, he led 40/0 in his opening service game but collapsed after 5th break point sending two easy backhands out. Good start usually gives Federer a nice cushion to deliver his best tennis – he was majestic throughout while Youzhny couldn’t do anything until a game when he faced a triple match point on serve – he managed then to win five straight points in a good fashion to efface a bit bad impression he left in front of tennis legends and former Wimbledon champions, Rod Laver witnessed the match in a box were also sitting Andre Agassi with his wife Steffi Graf. Federer leads now with Youzhny 14-0 in H2H, having lost just 3 sets and is two wins away from reclaiming No. 1 ranking.