Wimbledon – Men’s Semi Finals
Friday 6th July 2012

Andy Murray will attempt to become the first British man to reach a Wimbledon singles final for 74 years when he takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga this afternoon.

Murray will contest his fourth straight semi-final after fighting from a set and a break down against David Ferrer.

CHRIS QUINN previews both matches starting with a mouthwatering clash between Djokovic and Federer.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Roger Federer (3)

Friday’s first semi final at SW19 features what will be the top two players in the world once the updated ATP rankings are released on Monday. The order in which these two feature will depend entirely on the outcome of this match and Sunday’s final, given Roger Federer has the opportunity to return to the top of the men’s game for the first time since May 2010 if he lifts the trophy over the weekend and what better event to do it at than his favourite tournament and the event he has won six times previous. Defending champion Novak Djokovic on the other hand will be attempting to retain the title he secured twelve months ago and maintain his position at the pinnacle of the ATP tour. Having only dropped one set in the entire tournament to Radek Stepanek, Djokovic has been largely untroubled during the 2012 tournament and will enter the match as a warm favourite. That said, he will undeniably face his toughest test to date against third seeded Federer.

With very little to choose between the two players in their head-to-head record (Federer leads 14-12), the outcome of the first match on Centre Court tomorrow will come down purely and simply to whoever turns up and plays the best tennis on the day. Looking back to the pair’s most recent meeting at Roland Garros last month which Djokovic won in three straight sets, Federer looked decidedly shaky on serve for the majority of the match and committed 46 unforced errors compared to Djokovic’s 17, a statistic that will require a marked improvement on if Federer is to emerge victorious. Indeed the majority of Federer’s error count was a direct result of a rather dramatic breakdown of his normally reliable forehand. These are all elements of the Federer game that will need to be at or close to 100% if the Swiss is to overcome the Djokovic challenge.

I’m of the opinion that if Federer is to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam, it will probably come on the green grass of Centre Court at the All England Club. This is a tournament at which Federer has incontestably displayed the best tennis of his career and if the back problem that troubled him during his fourth round match with Xavier Malisse has passed, I see no reason why he can’t improve on his straight sets defeat in Paris a few short weeks ago. Understandably a lot has been made of Federer’s obvious demolition of Mikhail Youzhny in the last eight but with a superior head-to-head record against the Russian, Youzhny simply didn’t have any answers to the Federer game. Nevertheless, the form on show bodes well for Federer fans.

In what should be an improvement of quality from their French Open encounter, a defeat of Djokovic at the present time over the course of a five set match may just be a bridge too far for Federer and I believe that he may ultimately come up a little short.

Selection: Novak Djokovic @ 1.45
Score Prediction: 3-1 @ 3.7

Andy Murray (4) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5)

Friday’s second semi final sees home favourite Andy Murray in his fourth consecutive last four appearance at Wimbledon take on fifth seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in what must surely be considered Murray’s greatest opportunity to reach the final in SW19 in his career. Much was made of Murray’s apparently ‘impossible’ draw when it was released pre-tournament and whilst it has opened up rather nicely for him with Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal being eliminated somewhat prematurely, he has beaten everything put before him with relative ease in all truth. Perhaps most encouraging is the level at which Murray currently finds himself playing at. His form has improved as each round ticks by and like most champions, he is growing into the tournament as each opponent is dispatched. I was truly impressed with Murray’s serving against David Ferrer during Wednesday’s quarter final. It wasn’t so much the percentage of first serves in which incidentally finished at an ordinary 61%. It was the improvement on the serve as the match went on, demonstrating he could turn the heat up when it was necessary. Perhaps the most obvious example of this was his serve statistics in the fourth set which I believe Murray needed to win if he was to advance. His first serve percentage was an outstanding 83% with perhaps more impressively his first serve points won being an even more extraordinary 90%. Statistics like this during Friday’s semi final will make Murray extremely difficult to beat.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is not in unchartered territory however, having made the last four at Wimbledon last year. He’s played at this level before and will not be overawed by what he faces on Friday afternoon. Admittedly his record against Murray isn’t a great one (currently stands at 5-1 in Murray’s favour) but make no mistake about it Tsonga has the game to beat Murray tomorrow. The Frenchman can boast victories against the game’s best players in the biggest tournaments around and but for a couple of points here and there would have beaten Djokovic in Paris last month. Similar to Federer, it goes without saying that Tsonga is more at home on the grass of Wimbledon than the clay of Roland Garros and will be able to impose his powerful game as he wishes. Murray is without question in for an extremely tough match. The crucial and potentially match-winning factor in my opinion is the fact that Murray is stronger than Tsonga in pretty much most aspects of the game and ultimately if he plays at the level he did against Marin Cilic and David Ferrer in his last two matches, he’ll have enough to see off Tsonga and become the first Brit to make the Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938. Before that happens however, many a fingernail will be bitten by the home crowd before Murray wins through, probably in a five-set epic.

Selection: Andy Murray @ 1.47
Score Prediction: 3-2 @ 6.0

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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