Wimbledon QF Preview: Federer, Nadal Look To Keep Marching Onwards
ATPWorldTour.com previews Wednesday's quarter-final matchups, as top seed Roger Federer, three-time champion Novak Djokovic and World No. 1 Rafael Nadal all look to secure semi-final spots at Wimbledon.
Lose a set? Roger Federer first might have to lose a game on serve, and if not that, at least be pushed to a tie-break before he drops a set at Wimbledon. But neither have happened so far at the All England Club as the eight-time champion has coasted into the quarter-finals.
The top-seeded Federer has faced only four break points – erasing them all – and has won 81 per cent of his service points (223/274). Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who lost to Federer 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 on Monday, fared the best against the Swiss' serve, earning the quartet of break opportunities.
“I feel like these streaks just happen. You can't plan for them anyway because one point can change the outcome of a set. If you break it down, it could be one shot really. That's not something you can always control,” Federer said.
“Of course, if you give yourself maximum chances, you're playing well, you have super focus, then these streaks are kind of possible. Look, I'm equally happy if I would have won all the matches in four sets. That it happened to be in straights, it helps me for the season... It helps me to save energy for the rest of the tournament.”
Kevin Anderson has never beaten Federer, but the 6'8” South African has made it a habit of overcoming tall odds the past 12 months. He reached his first Grand Slam final at the 2017 US Open, and before his fourth-round match against Gael Monfils on Monday, the 32-year-old Anderson stared down two unfavourable streaks: 0-10 in fourth-round matches at Grand Slams outside the U.S., and 0-5 against Monfils in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Make that 1-11 and 1-6, thank you very much.
Anderson will face his biggest challenge yet, though, against Federer and will need to deliver a high percentage of first serves and rely on his big forehand to hold consistently. Face trouble on his serve, though, especially early, and it could be another Federer rout as the Swiss has not felt generous at SW19.
“I'm going to have to really take it to him, also at the same time try to treat it like another tennis match... The more I can just treat it like another tennis match, the better for me,” Anderson said. “I feel like I'm playing some of the best tennis of my career. When I'm doing that, I think I'm a very dangerous player.”
Read More: Why Anderson Says 'Come On' More Than Ever
When Milos Raonic and John Isner, two of the game's best and biggest servers, play, you can expect two things: a flurry of aces and tie-breaks. Isner and Raonic lead the Wimbledon field with 134 and 117 aces, respectively.
Of the nine sets the two have played, seven have finished in a tie-break. Raonic, although six years Isner's junior, will have the Wimbledon experience edge. The 6'5” Canadian reached the 2016 final (l. to Murray) and will play in his fourth Wimbledon quarter-final (2017, 2016, 2014). Isner will be competing in his first quarter-final at the All England Club and only his second at the Grand Slam level (2011 US Open, l. to Murray).
But he, like Federer, has yet to be broken, having erased all six break points he's faced, including two that were match points in the second round against Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium. Expect this quarter-final to come down to a few points here and there, the break points and whoever can get a mini-break in the expected tie-breaks.
“It's going to be coming down to those moments, about being sharp in the right moments, who is going to be able to step up, be the one that's able to dictate, putting more pressure on the other guy,” Raonic said.
Isner has been returning more aggressively than ever, which has helped him avoid, save for the Bemelmans match, the lengthy five-setters that used to sap his energy before the second weeks of Grand Slams. And at 33, even though it's his first Wimbledon quarter-final, surely Isner will play with nothing to lose, knowing that he may never get back to this stage. “If one of us gets a crack, a few chances, we're going to have to take it,” Isner said.
Raonic, though, has also done well to keep his matches tidy, having dropped just two sets so far, and as he showed in the 2016 semi-finals by beating Federer, the Canadian, if his serve is on, can play grass-court tennis better than almost anyone.
When Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori met two years ago this month at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, it was No. 1 vs. No. 6 for an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. Djokovic claimed the hard-court contest for his 30th Masters 1000 crown, and since, the Serbian has won all three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Nishikori.
In fact, Djokovic has won their past 12 meetings, and he has looked close to his best as he steamrolled his way into his 10th Wimbledon quarter-final, beating American Tennys Sandgren, Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, top Brit Kyle Edmund and Karen Khachanov of Russia.
“I felt like in the last month and a half, the level of tennis has been very close to where I would like it to be, where I'm used to having it,” Djokovic said.
Read More: Djokovic Remembers Sweet Taste of Success
Nishikori, however, like Anderson, has never played better at the All England Club. The 28-year-old is through to his first quarter-final at SW19 and had to beat 15th seed Nick Kyrgios and Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who upset Alexander Zverev, to make the last eight.
How healthy is Nishikori feeling, though? The right-hander seemed to be bothered by his right arm during his fourth-round match against Gulbis, and he'll need to be at full strength to disrupt Djokovic.
The two play similar styles, consistent and aggressive from the baseline but happy to charge the net and end the point early. During their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, though, Djokovic has just done it better, so it will be up to Nishikori to somehow find a way to bother the three-time Wimbledon champion.
“I don't have a good result, a good record with him, but I always enjoy playing him. He's one of the best players on the Tour,” Nishikori said.
Rafael Nadal, who sped through his fourth-round match in straight sets on Monday (d. Vesely), surely didn't mind that Juan Martin del Potro and Gilles Simon played the longest match of The Championships, a two-day and four-hour, 24-minute match that finished Tuesday afternoon, with Del Potro winning three tie-breaks to advance 7-6(1), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5).
As if the No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings needed help! Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, is back into the quarter-finals for the first time since 2011 and has yet to drop a set at SW19. The Spaniard is looking to win his third Roland Garros – Wimbledon double and tie Bjorn Borg's record.
“It's true that I have not been in that quarter-finals or in farther rounds, but I played good tennis here. I lost a couple of matches that I could win. Sometimes a few points change the final result,” Nadal said.
It's the third Grand Slam in the past nine months in which Nadal and Del Potro have met (2017 US Open SF, 2018 Roland Garros SF). Nadal has won their past six sets after dropping the opener at the 2017 US Open. A matchup on grass, however, might be Del Potro's best chance.
The Argentine is through to his first Wimbledon quarter-final since 2013, when he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, and his flat forehand has skidded nicely on the Wimbledon turf. Del Potro will want to play as aggressively as he can against the Spaniard, who, no doubt, will be happy to keep the Argentine chasing balls from side to side behind the baseline.
“It will be a different match [than] we played in Paris few weeks ago. I will try to hold my service games most of the time. If I want to beat him, I have to come to the net very often and play hard with my forehands, with my backhands, and try to take all the chances,” Del Potro said.