2011 Wimbledon – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Semifinals
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
When I watch Nadal play, I have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming! He performs at the same level no matter the tournament and usually makes the impossible look possible. He believes in himself to a degree such that every single inch of his body and mind react with conscious thought. Can I truly break down his game? Heck no, because he break all the rules of gravity and at the same time he has a certain rare gift you cannot teach. It is called passion, baby!
Don’t think I am not going to give equal attention to Andy Murray, but my reasons are far different. He is a character and at time sort of reminds me of Andre Agassi, especially with his ball striking and anticipation, but they are totally different when it comes to showing emotions and focus.
Nadal is 11-4 against Murray and has beaten him twice already in 2011. Nadal beat him in the semis here last year and also in the quarters in 2008. Here is a breakdown of their games:
Forehand – Nadal hits with a ton of spin and can also flatten it out by not dropping the racket head below the ball. Watch out when running him wide, because he can get his racket head on the outside of the ball and hit it down the line for a winner. He uses a full western grip, which the majority of tennis player cannot use because they lack the wrist and forearm strength as well as the foundation needed to hit with this grip.
Murray’s forehand is very steady. He will get most balls back in play and recently he has added a more killer approach to his shot and can hit it from any position on the court. He doesn’t use a grip like Nadal, but he uses a weak semi-western to strong eastern and can hit with plenty of spin for control.
Backhand – While Nadal plays left-handed, he is actually a rightly in everything else. This extra strength and coordination in his right hand makes his backhand lethal and allows him to high hit balls, low ball and while off-balance. Murray has one of the very best backhands in the game. His balance and body control enable him to do just about anything he wants from this wing.
Serve – Nadal has a tremendous advantage being a lefty which includes: taking his opponent out wide and off the court when serving to the ad side and he can serve into his opponent’s body when serving to the deuce court, making it difficult for righties to hit their big forehands. Murray’s serve is much improved and it now gives him much more free points and defensive returns that it used to.
Volley – Nadal is a pretty darn good doubles player and he does not get to fancy with his simple, well-placed volleys. Murray is not hesitant to attack the net and makes simple volleys (including touch volleys) when he is close to the net.
Movement – Even the dictionary can’t describe this part of Nadal’s game, but it all starts out with him feeling and knowing he can get to any ball. At the same time, Murray is also an excellent mover and he is right up there with the top guys in this department.
Court Position – Nadal prefers to stand a few feet behind the baseline for most of his shots, but he will come forward to hit defensive returns. Murray’s court position is a part of his game that needs attention. He has a tendency to stand to far behind the baseline and even though he gets to every ball, his opponent can retrieve his returns. He is definitely showing and proving to his opponents that he no longer be as patient as he has in the past and he will come forward and attack when necessary.
Nick’s Pick – Murray is definitely playing some of the best tennis of his career, which is helped by his more balanced control of his emotions. Nadal is in a position to repeat and coming off the French Open, he is brimming with confidence. I do not feel Murray can win this match from the baseline. He has to force the issue with all sorts of surprises. This is a huge match for Murray, because Wimbledon is England and England is Wimbledon. It has been so long since a player from England has won this prestigious title and that pressure falls squarely on Murray’s shoulders.
No matter which way I review this match, I have to give a slight edge to Nadal, but if I were you I would call in sick to make sure you see this match.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Wow! I am sure the entire tennis world is asking the same question: How could Federer lose after being up two sets? His record before that win winning the first two sets at a Grand Slam was 178-0!! This is what makes sports so intriguing. You never know what can happen and if you did know already you wouldn’t be interested! You have to credit Tsonga. The guy hung in there and changed his strategy and it was absolutely incredible to witness.
I was very interested in watching the Djokovic/Tomic match because Tomic spent some time training here a couple of years ago. I came away impressed with how well Tomic played and I thought at times he definitely outplayed Djokovic. However, Djokovic came up with the big shots at the right times and demonstrated why he has been the best player of 2011.
Don’t sleep on Tsonga in this match. He is 5-2 against Djokovic and the last time they played was in the quarters of the 2010 Aussie Open and Tsonga won that match in five sets.
Tsonga’s strategy - He will serve big forcing weak returns and then will put the ball away with huge forehand winners. He will attack relentlessly from the outset and he came in close to 60 times against Federer, forcing Fed to hit his best shot. Never once did he put his head down, which is very tough when you lose the first two sets. His movement is superb and I was really impressed with his mental toughness. Tsonga is full of confidence and generally he can get the crowd on his side with his off-the-wall play, which always helps.
Djokovic’s strategy – Djokovic has very compact groundstrokes that he hits when standing very close to the baseline. He has a great serve which he can place with pin-point accuracy and there is no one who returns serve better than the Djoker (this may be the determining factor in this match!). He has great touch around the net and can volley with the best of them. Lastly, he is always in control of his body no matter where he is on the court.
Nick’s Pick – This will be a must-see match and should have plenty of excitement. Tsonga will work the fans, but Djokovic has what it takes to stay cool, calm and collected. Keep in mind, Tsonga put a ton of pressure on Federer’s one-handed backhand and even moved him several feet behind the baseline. He will not be able to do this against Djokovic as his backhand is extremely solid. Despite their head-to-head record, I have to give the edge to Djokovic based on the way he has played thus far in 2011. Regardless, this will be a great match!