The way Kevin Anderson has solidified his game to the tune of making now two deep runs at major championships in less than a year, along with his win over Federer in the QF, makes picking Isner almost jingoistic (in this day and age, even a blog about tennis can be interpreted politically by an idiot, I suspect).
Anderson has a nice case to win tomorrow’s first SF. He has proven quite the formidable foe; his serve, deep-deep ROS (see the numbers on that) and his accurately penetrating ground strokes give him a very nice chance tomorrow. No way am I surprised at all if he gets by Isner.
But I like Isner’s newer game, which I already previewed in my QF preview. He’s got a better ROS, a smarter approach to pressuring his opponents during the rally and his serve is simply hazardous. With his ability to come to net, he’s just that much more of a nightmare.
But that match can go either way.
As can the Djokovic v Nadal, obviously.
The following numerical busy-work doesn’t do it for me:
Courtesy of Tennis.com:
~ They’ve split their last eight Grand Slam meetings, 4-4 (Nadal won the first five).
~ Away from Roland Garros, they’re at 3-3 (Nadal’s won six of their seven French Open meetings).
~ At Wimbledon, they’re 1-1 (Nadal won in the 2007 semifinals and Djokovic won in the 2011 final).
~ Nadal actually leads Djokovic on grass, 2-1 (they’re 1-1 at Wimbledon but Nadal won their only other grass-court meeting in the final of Queen’s Club in 2008, 7-6 , 7-5).
~ Nadal hasn’t lost a Grand Slam semifinal in almost nine years (the last time the Spaniard lost in a Grand Slam semifinal was at the 2009 US Open to del Potro—who went on to win the title).
This anecdotal/quasi-statistical splendor sounds pretty much like a Nadal fan found the cheese hidden in an old cupboard.
As you know, I’m not a huge numbers guy.
You know why I like Djokovic tomorrow? His ethos.
Sure I also like the quality of his ROS, the way he’s taking control of a rally, stretching his opponent toward either corner from either wing (a little more precision and consistency wouldn’t hurt), his ability to finish at the net, and that serve that’s coming along slowly but surely. I like how he’s faced some adversity and kept the engine going, that he’s showing every intention, including talking to the crowd or the chair, of winning the match, of returning to glory. Actually, I think he’s already found the glory, that win or lose tomorrow, he’s already back.
But what I like most about Djokovic’s chances tomorrow have to do with his composure, his character argument, his ethos when it comes to beating a guy like Nadal, especially Nadal. No one understands Nadal like Djokovic. He knows how to beat Nadal.
Saying that Nadal and Djokovic are 1-1 at Wimbledon is a bit misleading. I gave you the last 10 matches they’ve played as a little sample to gauge their match-up, which included the 2014 RG final. But Novak has really been all over Nadal since. And sure, Rafa had his trouble in 2015-16, during which Djokovic played peak excellence against everyone. So no shame in losing to Djokovic then.
They’ve certainly played some big matches and Rafa has risen to the occasion quite well, winning their most recent major final contests (2013 U.S. Open and 2014 French Open).
But I think Novak’s most recent peak and dominance of Nadal gives this current comeback legs and confidence to reach tomorrow with that deep muscle memory for the character and class he’ll use to beat Nadal on the Wimbledon lawns for a chance to play for his fourth Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy.
A lot of fans and tennis “experts” have Nadal in this one. Unfortunately, that’s just a misunderstanding.
Nadal will certainly come hard and come prepared to steal the match if Djokovic relapses and melts ala 2018 IW, MI or RG.
But mine eyes have seen a completely different Djoker. Call tomorrow a crisis, an intervention. No better venue or surface upon which to restore order.
And Novak has too much ground to make-up.
He can’t afford to lose.