The fab four: Day 11 preview
Originally published on: 01/07/11 10:21
When the Scot fell to his third Grand Slam final defeat in Australia at the start of the year, he didn’t exactly bounce back right away. In fact, the 24-year-old failed to win another match on hard courts, and as tournament upon tournament passed him by there were no signs of the rot stopping.
That was until the clay-court season hit and he gradually began to rebuild what was broken in the final Down Under. A semi-final run at Roland Garros followed, and a win at Queens over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sent him sailing into SW19 on a wave of confidence.
Murray has appeared to be enjoying his time in the British summer limelight so far and he seems extremely relaxed for a guy whose holding 75 years worth of historic pressure on his shoulders.
Murray’s opponent today doesn’t require an introduction but it’s always a joy to list off the facts about Rafael Nadal. The 10-time major champ is aiming to join Bjorn Borg as the only other person to have won three back-to-back Slams in Paris and London, and he is also aiming to become the second youngest man since Borg to reach 13 Grand Slam finals.
The man is, plain and simply, a machine. But Murray fans will be buoyed by the fact that the Brit has got the better of Nadal twice before on the Grand Slam stage – at the US Open in 2008 and at the Australian in 2010.
Nadal, who has the most wins on tour this season with 50, overcame a worrying ankle injury at the quarter-final stage and every part of his well-oiled machine will need to be functioning for today’s match-up. Murray, who is now undefeated in 10 on the grass, will be looking to take advantage of the partisan atmosphere when he steps onto the hallowed Centre Court turf this afternoon.
And as if the appetite didn’t need any additional whetting, the ‘warm-up act’ could possibly be a show-stealer when Novak Djokovic and Tsonga open up proceedings on Centre.
Djokovic, who boasts a 46-1 win-loss record this season, faces the additional burden of knowing that a win tomorrow would not only bring him a maiden appearance in a Wimbledon final, but it would also see him take over as World No.1. He faced this scenario last month in Paris, before eventually falling to Roger Federer at the semi-final stage.
Whether Novak wins here or not, his season to date will go down in the history books as truly remarkable. One thing the Serb has learnt throughout this year is how to win. Even when the odds were stacked against him, or he wasn’t playing his best tennis, he always found a way to win. He has proved that during this tournament – particularly in his quarter-final match-up against the tricky Bernard Tomic.
But Tsonga will represent a completely different threat than Tomic. The Frenchman has lit up this tournament with his personality, smile and all-court game.
The 26-year-old parted company with his coach before Queens and the decision so far has looked like a good one. Tsonga explained that after hovering around the top 20 for three years it was time to make a change if he wanted to break into the very top echelons of the men’s game.
The big-serving showman will be feeling quietly confidant of his chances against a man he holds a 5-2 winning record against. If Tsonga makes the final he will be the first Frenchman to do so since Cedric Pioline in 1997, and if he happens to meet Murray in the final it would only be the fourth time in history that the Queens final is replicated at the All England Club.
And if you’re a believer in omens, how about this one? Tsonga is seeded 12, the same number as Tomas Berdych last year. Berdych defeated six-time champ Federer in the quarters before defeating Djokovic in the semis and losing to Nadal in the final. So … Tsonga – Nadal final anyone?