Wow. What QF drama to wet our appetites for the next few rounds of this grand slam.
Let’s rehash yesterday and preview tomorrow.
I really only got to watch the Federer v Cilic match, but did see good portions of the Raonic v Querrey and a few highlights of Berdych v Pouille. The Murray v Tsonga looked like a great match, as well. You have to love that Frenchman’s fighting spirit.
The Federer-Cilic match was epic, no question. I was able to see the first two sets before having to get to work, so I was pretty much expecting a pretty poor result from the Maestro, which we actually discussed earlier as a possibility given his season, and the fact that Cilic was playing at a pretty high level (from what little we had seen). Federer looked the part of what I expected: rusty, dusty and old. His inability to break at 2-2 in the first set was a bad sign early. He had 40-15 and two second serves with which to convert and take control early in that match. Otherwise, he was playing pretty well, more or less shot for shot with the 6’6″ Croat though a step or two behind the charging big man.
Indeed, Cilic looked, as many have said, like the 2014 USO version when he dismantled Federer straights. The excerpts from the Swiss of his description of that ’14 affair were pretty interesting: how Cilic hit him off the court. Period. Pretty remarkable and, as I have said, suspicious. Such a high level on that kind of stage, no hiccups, straights against one of the great hard courters in the world was pretty wild.
The first two sets yesterday looked like we were going that direction other than for the fact that Federer was actually in the match, especially in that first set. He just couldn’t rise to the occasion on those pivotal points in the fifth game, nor the TB.
The second set soundtrack included the hymn of the vultures as Roger looked ready to be taken and eaten.
To keep this shorter than I’d like (perhaps I return to this epic later), let’s just say I followed the match and watched the last three sets later in the day; and Roger pulled his ailing game from the ledge and changed the course of the match and perhaps the tournament. When Cilic wasn’t booming nonreturnable serves, Roger was hanging around in those rallies, trading some tremendous grass strokes with the giant despite the multiple examples of the Croat’s stellar BL power, hammering winners from both wings. The tennis was pretty impressive.
Indeed, Cilic did let some golden opportunities pass in the fourth set. He too had break points and second serves with which to regain control of the match and put this thing away, but Federer fought back. In the end, brilliant match. These are the kinds of surprises that we want to see. The unexpected makes the sport just as interesting as watching a great dominate. The huge battles of tennis and wills are always a great watch. Federer moves on.
The Raonic v Querrey match was a serve exhibition. The 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 victory for the Canadian is not a surprise outcome. I am very happy for the American that he won a set; the match was close throughout, which says a great deal about the American’s game at this point. He did not just shock the world and go away. He had belief even in this match.
Berdych v Pouille seemed pretty straightforward. I had not seen the Frenchman play much at all, but the highlights revealed some nice tennis from the 22 year old. I will look forward to seeing him in the future. Berdych likes the grass and has some history here to help steady his confidence.
Although the Murray v Tsonga match became a lot more interesting than we expected, especially after the Murray 2-0 start, Murray does move-on and I think the Murray v Berdych SF match could be a grand contest between two heavy-hitters. At the very least, Berdych should have plenty left in the tank, moving through his QF in straights while Murray had to expend a bit more than he would have liked. The Scot is still the favorite, for sure, but Berdych is anything but a new-berry; he has played in a Wimbledon final, been around this neck of the woods for years, as we know. In addition, his big hitting and decent net game will surely test Murray some.
This could and should be a quality match. The history at stake, the rankings, and the level of play all season says Murray moves-on to the final to seek his second WB with Lendl riding shot-gun. I agree, but anything can happen and Berdych is certainly prepared (or so we would think).
The Federer v Raonic SF should be very interesting, as well. To make this fairly brief, I like Federer’s chances mainly because he literally had a perfect tune-up for the big serving Canadian. Cilic was pounding his serve and we know Roger generally fairs pretty well against the big serve.
Federer commented yesterday that through the first two sets, he had trouble reading Cilic, so the ace machine was in high gear. But as the match wore-on, Roger began to pick-up the serve better and hence the advantage changed dramatically (Cilic ace count dropped pretty dramatically). Along with this practice against a huge serving big man, Cilic has better ground strokes than Raonic, probably moves better, as well. Cilic’s grand slam winning form is frightening, as we know, almost too good to be true. Federer saw that yesterday but was able to hang around long enough, catch a few breaks, and finish-off the Croat.
The serve will play a big role, obviously, in this SF. Roger needs to serve well, as he did yesterday, and the Canadian needs to serve out of his mind. A huge stat from the Querrey v Raonic match is the American’s success on Raonic’s 2nd serve. I believe it was below 50%, maybe much worse. I saw the number as was shocked. Roger will be much more successful against that 2nd serve, more opportunistic.
We see Raonic’s game plan: Serve big and come to the net. McEnroe seems to have really helped here. But I saw some misses yesterday that didn’t give me that sense that this guy’s S&V is world class. He will be tough and could win this match for sure. But Querrey even had some success against Raonic yesterday (the match was tight) and I suspect Federer will be much more successful trying to pass the inbound Canadian. Although I like Querrey’s run, I just think Roger’s playing better tennis, has more weapons, and a ton more experience. Compare the two semi-finalists’ QF opponents. I think Federer had a better test, especially when you consider the comparison between Cilic and Raonic.
Having said all of that, the Canadian is ready to take that next step. He’s been so consistent in the last year or so, steadily making progress with his game to go with these deeper runs in bigger tournaments. He just missed the AO final due to injury as he seemingly had Murray on the ropes in that SF. He beat Federer in Brisbane this year in that final. He shouldn’t fear the stage as he has Wimbledon great in his box to boot. The comments from Raonic about McEnroe’s influence have centered around his play at the net and better use of energy and attitude, trying to avoid “disappearing” in a match. He’s confident, consistent, has big weapons and he’s improving as we speak.
This match almost seems subject to celestial design. Does Federer have another trip to the final in him? Despite a pretty friendly draw, his work from QF on is very difficult. Can he take care of this kind of business in this twilight of his career? This too was part of my 2016 prediction. This is the only real opportunity Federer has at a major, the HC perhaps being too taxing for the older Federer vessel. Put on your seat belts, tennis fans.
Murray escapes a potential danger in Berdych and Federer, having passed his Cilic test, comes prepared to give the Canadian one last tennis lesson.
Here’s to a couple of great matches, either way.