Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wimbledon 2013 Men's quarterfinals preview

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (Photo credit: Carine06)
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Tomas Berdych (7)

The world number one is in simply supreme form, dispatching his trickiest opponent so far - Tommy Haas, in straight sets in the fourth round. Djokovic looked in complete control throughout, hitting some sensational winners from both wings. The serve was erratic at times, but even when Djokovic was broken, he managed to rebound immediately and break back, a true hallmark of a dominant player.

Berdych got through a tricky Bernard Tomic in the round of 16 in a tough four-setter. Berdych was relentless throughout the match, hitting the lines with remarkable consistency, and overpowering the young Aussie, especially with his impressive backhand. Berdych will need that same consistency against Djokovic and a whole lot more.

It will be hard for Berdych to get the same amount of winners as he usually does, because Djokovic just doesn't give away points easily. Berdych has still to iron out some problems with his usually reliable serve, and if his service games consist of long rallies, then Djokovic will easily gain the upper hand.

Even though Berdych beat Djokovic at Wimbledon in the 2010 semis, it's extremely hard to see anything other than a Djokovic victory. There might be a close set or two, but Djokovic's greater variety coupled with his superiority in attack and defence should see him through.

David Ferrer (4) vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (8)

It is quite surreal to see that despite all the upsets in the men's draw, the expected seeds have all made it to the quarterfinals in the top half of the draw. That sets us up for what is on paper at least, the best match-up of the round.

It's taken a while for many to come to the party, but surely David Ferrer should now be recognized as the best player outside the top 4 the past two years. Unfairly labelled as a clay court specialist for a long time, Ferrer has shown that the virtues of accuracy, speed and determination go a long way on any surface. He has made it to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon for the second year in succession, and along the way has defeated and outsmarted players who are better suited to grass.

At first glance, you would think that Juan Martin Del Potro would also be better suited to grass than Ferrer. The Argentine has been in tremendous form, not losing a set en route to the last eight. If anything, watching Del Potro the last two rounds, one got the feeling he could still step it up a notch or two if he desired.

If Del Potro can raise the intensity of his game and stay focused throughout he can certainly avenge his defeat to Ferrer at SW19 last year. However, Ferrer is not going to give him any easy points. If Del Potro gets frustrated and is inconsistent with his shots, expect the meticulous Ferrer to progress.

Lukasz Kubot vs. Jerzy Janowicz (24)

When the main draw for Wimbledon was made, this was supposed to the dream quarterfinal pitting Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal. In stead, we have the first ever all Polish match-up at a grand slam featuring the unseeded Lukasz Kubot and the aggressive big hitting Jerzy Janowicz.

Kubot's run to the quarterfinals is nothing short of remarkable, however he has been helped to a large extent by the opponents he has faced and the challenge of his compatriot is going to be an extremely stiff one.

Many in the tennis world believe that Janowicz is the biggest obstacle in the way of a final between Andy Murray and Djokovic. Janowicz is clearly the favourite, although he did struggle to cope with the guile of Jurgen Melzer in the round of 16. Kubot's game is simple and straightforward. This isn't a match that will register high on the finesse and guile scales. Even though matches between countrymen can at times be tricky to call, Janowicz should win as Kubot doesn't have the return game to counter the 24th seed's huge serve.

Fernando Verdasco vs. Andy Murray (2)

Verdasco has played some great tennis at Wimbledon reminding many of the days when he was  a mainstay in the top ten a few years ago. Key to his resurgence, has been the effectiveness of his serve. So crucial for most lefties, when Verdasco's serve is on form, he is virtually untouchable.

As I mentioned in my preview for the round of 16, Verdasco is also showing more game intelligence than usual. He isn't necessarily going for all-out winners, and while the forehand remains his biggest shot, he hasn't been making unforced errors on the backhand side either.

As impressive as Verdasco as been, Andy Murray has simply been better. Murray has already ended Britain's wait for a grand slam champion, and now he seems focused and intent on ending the long wait for a homegrown Wimbledon champion.

Traditionally at Wimbledon Murray makes allowances for some drama in the early rounds, giving up a set or two, even at times engaging in a five-setter. This year has been completely different. Murray is playing with the swagger of a champion, hitting amazing passing shots, crafting points with intelligence, and just generally toying with his opponents.

Murray will also want to avenge a quarterfinal loss to Verdasco at the 2009 Australian Open, and with the best return in the game, he neutralizes the Spaniard's biggest strength. Murray should have few problems on his serve, and he should also be able to dictate rallies from the baseline. The Scotsman should overwhelm the Spaniard in the three closely fought sets.
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