A SPIRITED early effort from Sam Querrey in which he had his chances in set one against Rafa Nadal wasn’t enough in Wednesday’s quarter finals, with Querrey desperately needing to take the opener.
Once that had gone so had his chances and Querrey. So, yet again at a major it’s the same trio plus one in the semi finals, with Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer still in contention, along with Roberto Bautista Agut.
And, let’s be honest, this tournament desperately needs an exciting match to light it up, as it’s been pretty mediocre stuff by and large on the men’s side so far.
Hopefully the 40th career clash between Federer and Nadal can be the encounter to do just that.
Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer
A great clash for the fans and neutrals alike, it’s also been a very good career series for ‘no tie breaks’ backers, with only three tie break sets in the last 41 between Federer and Nadal on all surfaces.
So, the 2.62 about no tie breaks is certainly an option again in a tournament that plenty of players have complained about in terms of the slowness of the courts.
Actually, there have been 64 matches already that have featured at least one tie break, which will be down on last year’s 77, but it’s about the same as the 67 of 2017 and more than the 60 of 2016.
And perhaps the lack of pace in the surface this year is helping Nadal, who’s been in the best form he’s shown on grass for many a year and I get the feeling that he’s focussing now on equalling and eventually overtaking Fed’s record of 20 major titles.
If he beats Federer here – and he’s favourite to do so – he’ll be within sight of a 19th major and one behind the Swiss, who probably won’t add many if any more to his tally at almost 38 years old.
In years gone by the impression was that Nadal saw Wimbledon as a bit of an afterthought following the clay season, but he’s been all business this year and he looks the right favourite.
Federer hasn’t impressed this grass swing by his standards and I have to wonder whether or not he’s still capable of going to five sets against Nadal these days.
Only five of their last 22 clashes has gone to a final set and very often the winner of these encounters has won it with a bit to spare, so if I were backing either man in match odds on Friday I’d be inclined to risk the -1.5 sets.
Fed’s backhand has certainly looked off this tournament and you’ve got to wonder if it’ll be able to cope with the barrage it’s likely to get from Nadal on Friday.
That said, the underdog has won this battle in two of the last four clashes and Federer is certainly capable of turning up and increasing his level from anything we’ve seen so far this fortnight.
Correct score punters will have noted that a lot of the sets between these two end 6-3, with half of their last 28 sets against each other ending in that scoreline.
For me, I expect Nadal to win it on current form, but it doesn’t feel like good value taking him at 1.68 against Federer on grass, so just a small wager on no tie breaks for me.
Let’s hope we get the match that the tournament has been waiting for on the men’s side and that it isn’t blighted by gale force winds as their French Open clash was.
Novak Djokovic vs Roberto Bautista Agut
The winner of Federer-Nadal will face either Novak Djokovic or Roberto Bautista Agut and while the latter has won three of their last five meetings on all surfaces and their last three in a row on hard courts he seems unlikely to upset the odds.
Similarly to David Goffin, RBA has the game on this surface, with his flat hitting and good movement, to cause some damage to the defences of Djokovic, but mentally I’d probably put him in a similar bracket to Goffin.
We saw Goffin collapse horribly from *4-3, 30-0 in set one of his quarter final clash with Djokovic to winning just two further games in the entire match and it’s asking an awful lot for RBA to come out in a maiden Slam semi and play his best against the world number one.
He’s struck me as the sort of player that doesn’t truly believe in himself at elite level, similarly to Goffin and many others, and I’d find it hard to have any faith in him causing a shock in these circumstances.
That said, he does have the game to make Djokovic work very hard indeed, with this low bouncing surface giving his flat forehand in particular some assistance even against a defender like Djokovic.
Those recent successes (two this season alone and from a set down both times) over Djokovic should give him the belief, but will that negate his nerves in a Wimbledon semi final on Centre Court?
If we look at the stats of their last three clashes on hard courts (all won by RBA) we find that RBA has limited the Serb to just 65% of points won on first serve and 75% holds of serve.
And that’s on hard courts, where Djokovic is at his best and in his last 50 matches at main level on outdoor hard he’s held 87% of the time and won 74% of his first serve points, so RBA has done well against the Serb lately.
For me, this is partially about how RBA handles the occasion, and if he does that successfully (where the likes of Berrettini didn’t) he’s got a set in him and the 3-1 to Djokovic appeals at 3.75.
If he doesn’t it could be another one-sided affair for an elite player this Wimbledon.
- 0.5 points win no tie-breaks in Federer v Nadal (2.62, Unibet)