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Only one Wimbledon semi-final has the sparks

Andy Murray has his sights set on the world number one ranking. (Image: Creative Commons)
Roar Pro
10th July, 2015
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When one looks at the men’s Semi-Final line-up, it’s not hard to spot the more appealing match-up.

Novak Djokovic is 11-1 against Richard Gasquet, his last victory a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 drubbing at Roland Garros.

Roger Federer leads Andy Murray by just one win, ahead 12-11 following three consecutive wins against the Scot.

It’s the athletic brilliance of the Scot against the breathtaking efficiency of the Swiss, a premier defender up against a premier attacker.

Forget Djokovic versus Gasquet. Federer versus Murray is where sparks will fly.

The history
As mentioned previously, Federer owns a 12-11 winning record against Murray, his last victory a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of the Scot at 2014’s ATP World Tour Finals.

Don’t let that fool you though. Murray had a well-documented dip in form following back surgery in late 2013, and is arguably more reliant on confidence than the rest of the ‘Big Four’.

He regained said confidence in his body at the end of 2014, and it has shown in what’s arguably his best season to date, despite the lack of a grand slam title (but more on that in the form section).

At Wimbledon, the pair have split two wins, the Swiss claiming his 17th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2012, before Murray avenged the loss shortly after by claiming Gold over Federer at the 2012 Olympics on the very same court.

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Thus, when looking at the history, the pair are nigh on inseparable as they come into their semi-final bout.

The form
Federer knows as well as anyone his best chance to win an 18th Grand Slam title is, by a long stretch, at Wimbledon, and once again is playing his best tennis of the season at the venue.

Federer has looked untouchable so far, dropping only one set (in a tiebreak) against the big serving Australian Sam Groth en route to the semis.

Murray’s current form is, remarkably, going under the radar. Against players other than Novak Djokovic, Murray has compiled a 36-match winning streak.

Still, having said this, Murray has had slightly more noticeable dips this tournament than the Swiss. Particularly in his third and fourth round matches, Murray seemed to prime himself early before dipping in the third set, then recovering to comfortably progress through.

Perhaps Murray never felt truly threatened by the opponents he was up against (especially when up two sets to love), but any similar lapses will be far more costly this time around.

The form clearly favours Federer so far in the event, facing tougher opponents and yet coming through easier than Murray.

The game plan
Federer and Murray are wildly different in their game styles, particularly as Federer has attempted to counter age with a more aggressive game style over the past couple of years.

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The Federer serve will, as always throughout his career, prove decisive. Against one of the best returners in the game, Federer’s first serve percentage must be up around the 70 per cent mark if he is to triumph.

Such is Murray’s returning ability, Federer may opt to play a couple more shots than usual on the baseline before coming in, ensuring he has complete control of the point before rushing into the net for the finisher.

Still, expect a considerable number of points on Federer’s serve to be serve-volleys, a tactic that has rewarded so many at Wimbledon over the years.

For Murray, the underlying weakness of his game is his second serve, something considerably off the pace when compared against other members of the top 10.

Murray’s first serve percentage will, like Federer, have to be relatively high if he is to emerge the victor.

For any second serves Federer faces, expect Murray to direct them to the backhand, something that will either be greeted by Federer’s trademark blistering inside-out forehand, or a slice backhand to set himself up to take the offensive.

Murray, despite being a fantastic volleyer on the occasions he does come in, will see no reason to opt for a more aggressive approach, and will back himself in to win the long, seven-plus shot rallies.

With such a mindset, though, the game is more on Federer’s racquet than it is Murray’s, but this doesn’t make Federer an instant victor like it did in his prime.

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The verdict
This match has thriller written all over it. Even when considering crowd support it’s hard to predict, Murray’s impenetrable support at Wimbledon challenged by the globally admired Federer.

When it comes down to the match, the 28-year-old Murray is playing the best tennis of his career, breaking down the games of opponents with ruthless grit and efficiency.

If both players play at their peak for the entire match then it’s Federer who’ll come out on top, his ceiling higher than Murray (and arguably anyone else in tennis history).

Having said this, Federer has not been able to sustain his peak in the big matches like he used to, and a primed Andy Murray should prove too much for the Swiss.

Prediction: – Murray (in five)

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