THE men’s semi-finals take place on Friday with Roger Federer now a warm order to go on to claim an eighth singles title.
Federer is a 1.3 shot to win it and standing in his way on is Tomas Berdych while Sam Querrey takes on Marin Cilic.
We’re set for another pleasant day weather wise so the roof shouldn’t be needed and Cilic and Querrey are first up on Centre Court at 1pm.
British hopes were dashed on Thursday when Jo Konta was beaten fairly convincingly in the end by Venus Williams in the women’s singles semi-final and the key moment in that one came at the end of set one.
With Williams serving at 4-4 Konta had a couple of break points but Venus saved them empathically, went on to break Konta the next game and that was that. The better player on the day won, no doubt.
Similarly to the women’s semi-finals underdog winners in this round are quite rare, with only four betting in the 14 semi-finals this decade prevailing.
Tie-break matches are statistically more likely to occur than underdog winners, with eight of the 14 semis this decade featuring at least one.
Perhaps the most interesting trend in the men’s semi-finals is the lack of five set matches since they changed the grass to this slower seed back in 2002.
From 2002 to 2016 only three of the 29 completed men’s semi-finals went to five sets so it’s not been a good round for five-set backers in recent history.
Sam Querrey v Marin Cilic
Both men had to come from behind in their quarter-finals and Cilic in all probability wouldn’t have made it this far had Gilles Muller not failed to take a two-set lead from 5-3 ahead in the second set tie-break of that quarter-final.
The Croat may have been able to scrape through in five against a fatigued Muller but it would have been tough, while Querrey had an injury to Andy Murray to thank for his place in the last four.
So opportunity knocks for this pair to make a Grand Slam final and you’d have to suspect it could well be the one and only chance Querrey is likely to get to make the championship match at a major.
He had a little bit of luck earlier in the tournament too when bad light stopped his clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with Tsonga having to come out the next day and serve to stay in the match which the Frenchman failed to do.
He could be forgiven for thinking it might be his time but he’s lost to Cilic all four times they’ve met at senior level – two here at Wimbledon and one also on grass at Queen’s Club.
They met twice in juniors, with one win apiece, but as pros it’s been Cilic who’s edged all four meetings – in five sets twice at Wimbledon, also a decider at Queen’s and in two tie-breaks on hard courts a couple of years ago in Washington DC.
From their head-to-head stats it’s clear where Cilic has had the edge and that’s in second serve points won and the break-point win percentage.
Both men have won exactly the same amount of points on their first serve in their clashes (74.9%) but Cilic has won 57.7% on his second ball to Querrey’s 48% indicating he’s not so reliant on a big first serve to win the points in their matches.
He’s also taken 42.4% of his break opportunities against Querrey with the American only managing to take 27% of his chances versus the Croat.
And those clashes were a while ago now while Cilic has improved since back in the years between 2009 and 2012 and you could probably argue he’s playing his best tennis since that famous US Open win of 2014.
I’d expect Cilic to be better on the big points and Querrey may well need that big serve to be firing at its best to come away with the win here.
He does have a higher aces per game rate both in the last year on grass and in his career at Wimbledon than Cilic and he’s yet to be out-aced by the Croat in their clashes so Querrey seems a good favourite in most aces.
As he has been all tournament Cilic is too short for me to back him but Cilic -1.5 sets and Querrey most aces look the ones here.
Roger Federer v Tomas Berdych
The Swiss maestro and the Czech meet for the 25th time in their careers and there are more reasons for Berdych to be positive about this career series than the one against Novak Djokovic.
Berdych was able to record only his third win in 28 matches when an injured Djokovic called it quits early in set two of their quarter-final a couple of days ago but this match-up with Federer has been a more fruitful one for him.
Indeed, he should have been only the second person to beat Federer this season when he held match points against the Swiss in Miami but failed and if I remember rightly threw in a huge double fault to lose that one.
So the honour of having beaten Fed this season is jointly held by Evgeny Donskoy and Tommy Haas but Berdych has beaten Federer here at Wimbledon in the past and has a puncher’s chance of doing it again if he has one of his better days.
That said it was Federer who was on a great day (as he has been for most of this season) when he handed out a lesson to Berdych at the Australian Open back in January and if the Swiss plays like that again he’ll likely brush Berdych aside.
But I’d expect Berdych to be a lot more bullish about his chances in this match than against a fit Novak Djokovic and there isn’t a great yawning chasm between the Czech and the Swiss on the stats of their last 19 head-to-head matches.
Federer has held serve around 10% more often than Berdych at 86.7% compared to the Czech’s 76%, which is a significant amount, but there’s only 4% in it on first serve win percentage and just less than 5% in it on second serve win percentage.
On break points converted Federer is better by 5% again and on their one-year numbers on grass we again see that it’s breaking serve that lets Berdych down.
The Czech has broken at a rate of just 13.6% in the last 12 months on grass, while Federer is more than 11% better in that department at 25.2%.
As consistent as Berdych has been in big tournaments over the years he’s not quite elite level but he’s more than capable of testing Federer and the 3-1 to Fed at 3.60 is one option.
Not since 2008 has Federer made the Wimbledon final without dropping a set along the way and we know that when Berdych is at his best he’s more than capable of winning at least a set against Federer – even in 2017.
Most aces tends to be close between them and they have almost identical records of aces per game in the past year on grass and at Wimbledon in their careers.
Under 9.5 games in set one is interesting at 2.60, with five of the last eight and eight of the last 13 opening sets contested between them having ended in fewer than 9.5 games.
There’s a bit of value in that, I feel, and worth a bet on a day where value is thin on the ground.
Sean Calvert's Tips
- 1pt Federer to beat Berdych 3-1 at 13-5, Unibet
1.5pts under 9.5 games in set one of Federer v Berdych at 8-5, Unibet