Wimbledon finals set, Federer takes aim at #18

The men’s and women’s finals are set at Wimbledon, and much promise and drama are in store.

Petra Kvitova, who has proven this year that she finds another gear on the grass of the All England Club, convincingly defeated countrywoman Lucie Safarova in straight sets, a result I fully expected given her performance in the tournament thus far. In the other semifinal, Eugenie Bouchard took out Simona Halep in straights, though the scoreline doesn’t reveal how close it was, at least in the first set. The women traded breaks early, and Halep appeared to be in control as Bouchard was going for bigger and bigger returns and making more and more errors. Then, Halep appeared to turn an ankle and hyperextend her knee early in that set, and though she came back quickly, didn’t seem completely comfortable afterward. She managed to force it to a tiebreaker, but Bouchard proved too strong, and then ran away with it in the second set.

If Bouchard manages to get in a significant amount of her returns on Kvitova’s tough serve, she could have a chance against the 2011 champion. Personally, I don’t think she’s consistent enough to make it happen. She got a little lucky against Halep with the ankle turn, and her game is dependent on a significant amount of being “on,” that is, getting her cuts in on returns and forehand. It may it may not pay off for her, especially against somehow playing as well as Kvitova. Then again, Bouchard has been waiting to break through. I expect Kvitova to win, but am seriously hoping Bouchard finds a way.

Eugenie Bouchard will look to capture her first major title on Saturday in what has been a big tournament for the country of Canada.

Eugenie Bouchard will look to capture her first major title on Saturday in what has been a big tournament for the country of Canada.

On the men’s side of things, Novak Djoković survived a tough court set win against Grigor Dimitrov, who is universally regarded as the future of men’s tennis (Djoković said as much after the match). Dimitrov slides better on the grass than anyone I’ve ever seen, and managed to snap that forehand on the run better than anyone else as well, except perhaps his opponent. Djoković faced four set points that, had he lost, would have forced a deciding fifth set, but he managed to find a way to raise his game, save the points, and close out the match. It wasn’t that Dimitrov played badly or anything like that, he just showed the fact that he isn’t quite a champion yet, and Djoković is and was. He’s hungry to regain some of the Grand Slam trophies he lost, and took a great step toward getting that done. Expect great things from Dimitrov, just not yet.

The same applies to Roger Federer’s semifinal opponent, Milos Raonic of Canada. The big-serving youngster bludgeoned his way to the semis on the back of his monster serve, and he had it working for him again this day. But he doesn’t quite have the rest of his game developed enough to contend for majors. Federer broke Raonic immediately and didn’t really look back. The secret to beating him, or to beating someone like Andy Roddick, was to block his serve back and make him play out the point. the more he had to play, the more likely he was to make a mistake, and Federer did this to perfection. In fact, that’s how Federer always plays, and it frustrated Raonic right out of the tournament, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

If Raonic develops a return game and polishes his net game, he should be a real contender. A serve as naturally powerful as his is an immediate asset. It just depends how many other aspects he can develop. Big men are hardly ever great movers, and the better movers can almost always get themselves into enough points to negate the effect of a big serve. As big as the serve is, the best players are good enough to guess where it will be and can get it back enough of the time to make a match of it. The constant falling short of guys who play “big man tennis” just goes to reinforce that power isn’t everything.

So we have a Fed-Djoker final, the 35th time the two of them have met as professionals. I’m going with the proud champion looking to prove he can still do it in a profession rife with young guns. Wimbledon causes statistics that are totally unprecedented for Roger Federer: more than 30 holds at love throughout the tournament, only one break of serve heading into the semis, and only one set dropped. As I’ve said before, Wimbledon brings out the best in Federer, and I fully expect this trend to continue. However, a Djoković victory is certainly possible, if not altogether likely. Either way, it should be a final to rival the best we’ve had, finals like 2007, 2008, and 2009, not to mention classics like 1980 or 1981. Anything can happen, and we’re the fortunate beneficiaries of it. Did I mention it would be his 18th major title, eighth Wimbledon, and first since 2012? So no big deal, just an extension of history, nothing major.

Enjoy the action and keep it right here.