the legend

joyful rogger fedder

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 11 Preview

Player Photo

There can be little doubt that many people will be hoping for a Roger Federer meeting with Andy Murray on Sunday as the preferred outcome of this afternoon's semi-finals at the 2009 Championships, which is a shame for Andy Roddick and Tommy Haas, who will also be togged out in their whites and ready to do battle - Roddick against Murray and Haas versus Federer.

The swell of opinion, except perhaps in the US and Germany, will be for a final in which the five-time champion will be striving for all sorts of new records and Bonny Prince Andy will be playing the role of that perennial British sporting favourite, the upstart and underdog who could just do the business.

It is Federer who seems to have come out of the past 12 days with fortune riding shotgun on his gilded coach. Lifted beyond measure by the impetus of his first French Open, and the consequent full hand of Grand Slam titles, Federer next heard that Rafael Nadal, his pesky nemesis, had been forced out by knee problems, elevating the second seed to the instant position of favourite.

Now, in order to become the first man to reach seven straight Wimbledon finals since the abolition of the challenge round in 1922, he must overcome no more intimidating a hurdle than Haas, an opponent he has beaten eight times in a row.

For Murray, the task is, on the face of it, a good deal more demanding. Roddick is battle-hardened when it comes to this stage of Wimbledon, this being his fourth semi-final. In 2003 he lost, and in the next two years he marched into the final only to be crunched by Federer.

As he memorably remarked at the time, he threw the kitchen sink at Federer, only to have a bathtub hurled back at him. But here he is, back again with a new bride, Brookly Decker, and a fresh coach, Larry Stefanki, and playing his best tennis for a long stretch.

None of this, of course, will faze Murray. Does anything, in fact, ever faze him? Despite the American's huge serve, he has had Roddick's number of late. The career statistics show Andy with a 6-2 lead, but he has won the last three, and in their only other Wimbledon clash, three years ago when Murray was still wearing his apprentice's colours, Roddick was seen off in straight sets in the third round.

This was one of the results that alerted the British sporting public to the news that somebody special was on the tennis horizon after too many years. The armaments race for the second world war was just cranking up when, in 1938, Britain last paraded one of its own in a Wimbledon final.

He was Henry Austin, more popularly known as Bunny, a fine player doomed to dwell forever in the shadow of Fred Perry, who had won Wimbledon three times and then gone off in 1936 to join the then-thin ranks of the professional tennis circuit. Austin lost to Don Budge, and to the end of his life was lamenting that all the public wanted to know about in his time was "Fred, Fred, Fred". Well, he did win the thing three times, Bunny.

Now here comes Murray, who may do what two other British players failed to achieve in the Open era by progressing beyond the last four. Roger Taylor was a losing semi-finalist twice, in 1970 and 1973, while Tim Henman went out at that stage four times, on every occasion to the eventual champion.

Still, at least Tim has a hill named in his honour. Andy, in the last four at just his fourth Wimbledon, has also got to this elevated position faster than either Taylor or Henman. It took Roger until his eighth Wimbledon, and Tim his fifth. Neither managed to land the number three ranking that Murray nailed down in May.

On that particular front, things could get even better if we allow our enthusiasm to have its head. Should he get to the final and win it, Murray will move ahead of Federer into the number two spot, no matter what the Swiss does. And he would also be just five ranking points adrift of the number one, Nadal.

But enough of that. First Murray must see off Roddick, who offered a fine example of his tenacity by overcoming Lleyton Hewitt in five sets on Wednesday evening (his first five-setter of the year) and will be confident of doing the same to Murray, whatever the distance - three, four or five sets.

However, having won at the Queen's last month Murray is on a 10-match streak on grass and his form on Centre Court these past dozen days has ranged from impressive to awesome. Many people feel it is Murray's destiny to win in the semi-finals and again on Sunday.

Perhaps Andy shares that feeling, but he is already too savvy to spout such stuff. He is prepared only to admit to being "quietly confident". Like Murray, Haas is a first-time Wimbledon semi-finalist and it will hardly improve his odds that Federer is appearing today in a record 21st consecutive Grand Slam semi-final. There is, however, a worm of worry for the Swiss Alp.

The last time he faced Haas, in the fourth round at Roland Garros a few weeks back, Federer went two sets behind before hitting his stride and capturing the last three sets at a cost of six games. They have never met at Wimbledon, though it should have happened in the fourth round two years ago until the US-based German had to concede a walkover because of a torn stomach muscle.

Novak Djokovic, the fourth seed who went out to Haas in the quarter-finals, warns that, having won the grass tournament in Halle, Tommy - like Murray on a 10-game grass streak - is "a perfect player for this surface" and adds: "Tommy hasn't lost this year on this surface, so of course he has a chance if he serves well."

That opinion may be greeted with a smile by the Federer camp, but Roger himself certainly will not assume his place in Sunday's final is as good as booked. That said, he will have his eye on the main prize - the chance of passing Pete Sampras' record by winning his 15th Grand Slam, plus the opportunity to reclaim the number one spot from Nadal after having held it for a record 237 weeks. Tommy and his back-to-front cap will be at full stretch to contain the super-confident Federer.

No comments:

Post a Comment