Federer Stuns Djokovic, Murray Silences Tsonga

| July 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Brilliant! Fantastic!  Amazing! Epic! These were terms heard on the lawns of The Championship on Friday.  In an uncanny display of power and precision, favorite son and six-time Wimbledon Champion and now eight-time finalist, Roger Federer had all the answers for big, strong Novak Djokovic.  This was a win to remember.  The young studs of the ATP have come to believe The Swiss is fair game. After today’s decisive triumph, those young guns should wonder if they will be as competitive at 30-years of age.

The pre-match commentary sounded like the rhetoric before the classic Seabiscuit – War Admiral race of the century.  Analysts had suggested it critical that Federer start fast and not let the big guy take the lead. Roger could not have been more efficient in the 24-minute first set losing just four points on serve and hitting seven outright winners.  In this year’s tournament, both Djokovic and Federer have looked vulnerable but on this day in his favorite setting, Roger Federer stood tall.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer to meet Andy Murray in the finals

Djokovic came to life in the second set capitalizing on an early break and serving out the set in 30-minutes. It seemed Djokovic had the momentum heading into the third set.  He was now connecting on his backhand but unlike previous matches, he was not able to overpower Federer.  Serving at 2-3, Djoko and Federer played two 25-stroke points that dazzled the roaring crowd.  What was truly remarkable about these points was that the players were both hitting extremely powerful, offensive strokes.  The players stayed on-serve with Federer serving at 4-4.  The Swiss survived two key break points before holding the game.  At 4-5, Djokovic seemed uncharacteristically tight. He mishit a forehand to fall behind 15-40. Of course, he rallied and saved the first set point, but Roger smashed an overhead winner to take a 2-sets to 1-set lead.

Federer broke in the second game of the fourth and followed with a hold to go up 3-0. He had won 21 of the last 30 points. The players pressed each other but could not break.  At 5-3, Roger looked tentative for the-first time. Could he put this guy away or not?  It is a question all underdogs must answer. He failed to land his four first serves. At 30-30, He aced the Serb.  At 40-30, match point, he landed a bullet that Novak could not handle.  There was a moment of disbelief before the crowd fully understood what had happened.

On recent confrontations, Federer has had the momentum against the Serb only to see the top ranked player raise his game. Roger not only brought his A game to Centre Court but he also unveiled an impressive serving strategy that stifled the bruising return game of Djokovic.

Sport commentators say that big-time players want the ball in big situations.  Today, Roger Federer wanted to serve.  And, serve he did. He out-aced Novak 12 -9.  He never double faulted.  He landed 64 percent of his first serves, winning 75 percent. Most impressive was his ability to keep Djokovic at bay on his second serves, of which he won an unthinkable 72 percent.  In previous matches, it has been Federer’s inability to win second serves that separated the players.

Roger had tremendous success bringing his second serves directly at Djoko’s torso, handcuffing the Serb. This was a clean match, very clean.  In the 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win, Federer gained the break he needed in sets one, three and four while Djokovic only broke one time, in the second set.

On Wimbledon’s grass, Federer had more game than the number one seed.  His patented one-handed slice backhand is more effective on grass than on any other surface. His net play was flawless and his crisp returns of service kept the pressure on Novak who was forced to work hard to hold serve.

At the conclusion of the match, the gracious Djokovic paid homage to Federer, who can take over the top ranking with a win in the finals.  For the Swiss he raised his record at the All England Club to 65-7.  To get that championship win and top ranking, Federer will be taking on England’s own champion, Andy Murray.

Murray Ousts Jo Willy

As intense as the first semifinal was, the fans watching the second pairing were at an emotional breaking point before the match began.  It has been 74-years since a Brit reached the finals of the home country’s prestigious tournament.  It will not be 75.

Thanks to the gritty, consistent and deft play of Andy Murray, the home crowd will rally for their superstar on Sunday morning.  Unlike Federer, Murray was expected to win this one. His 5-1 record against the Frenchman gave reason for hope but Andy has been down this road before.

But, this Andy Murray is very different than that other Andy Murray.  This fellow responded well to pressure.  At one point in the fourth set, Murray took a hard fall near the baseline.  Surely, this would ignite a tirade and trainers and all sorts of distractions.  Unbelievably, the Scotsman picked himself up and resumed play.  Whatever Ivan Lendl is doing to keep Murray focused is working. Please coach Lendl, pass it on to my grandchildren.

This was another clean match.  Tsonga gained two service breaks and Murray responded with four.  Under the close scrutiny of a national and international media hunt, Murray rose in to the occasion.  In the past, he was more likely to self-destruct in these big moments.  Not this time.

Murray played with the confidence of a winner.  He served brilliantly, smothered the baseline and chased down countless drop-shots, wide-angled cross court backhands and made Tsonga play longer points.  Buoyed by a break in the second game of the match, Murray fought of a 15-40 challenge in the fifth game and served out the set. Murrays was scoring points off his forehand and logged five outright winners in the opening set.

By the end of the second set, a pattern had developed.  Tsonga was only winging 15 percent of his second serves.  But Tsonga’s steady rise up the rankings is a credit to his ability to comeback. He began to land more first serves and began to win more than 50 percent of his second serves. Tsonga grabbed a break midway through the set and survived two challenges to take the set.

The fans were not as gleeful as they had been I the first two sets.  In the fourth set, Murray put them through the ringer.  It looked good when the Scot broke and held to go up 3-1. But, Jo Willy was not finished.  He stormed back and got back on serve. The crowd stilled.

The players clawed their way to the 11th game.  Along the way, both servers held off 15-40 challenges.  At 5-6, Tsonga was careless. At 15-30, the Frenchman netted a makeable volley.  Faced with two match points, Murray let it all out with a powerful forehand return.  The stands erupted only to find that the clean strike had been called out.  Murray had dropped his racquet and bent over awaiting a review.  The correction was made and Andy Murray ended 74-years of frustration.

Federer – Murray       

Will Federer subconsciously feel he has already won the championship?  How will Murray respond to divided crowd support?  Will Murray’s courageous run through the most difficult bracket take a toll? What game plan will Ivan Lendl draw up?

It seems that it is Murray who must get out of the gate and ride the lead as long as he can.  Neither player can play a loose set because when the momentum changes, it becomes elusive.  

Federer’s serve may well be the key.  If he is as sharp as against Djokovic, it could be a short afternoon for Murray. Murray needs to stay composed, focused.  He must also avoid poor shot selection. Murray may have an advantage in the longer points. He appears very fit and has 6 years on Roger.

But the Swiss has 16 Grand Slam titles and 6 Wimbledon titles.  Murray is looking for a magical first slam. The Scot has had success against Roger. The two have played 15 times.  Murray holds a one match edge. Roger has won their last two meetings.  Historically, when Roger wins, he wins the first set fairly decisively.  When Murray wins, he battles to the first set win.

These are two exquisite shot-makers. The smart money is on Federer, but a nation and most likely some royalty stands behind the underdog.  Murray must do what Djokovic could not, battle Federer’s service games.

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