Wimbledon 2017, men’s semis preview: Federer eyes history in Berdych clash, big-servers Cilic-Querrey face off

The 2017 edition of Wimbledon was dominated by talk of the “Big Four” – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – long before the grass-court Grand Slam had even begun. Yet here we are, down to the last four, and Federer is the only man left standing from that quartet.

We have three surprise semi-finalists in Sam Querrey, Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych, and this is the first time at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2003 that the last-four men are ranked outside the top four. Federer is seeded third but he is currently the No 5 player in the world.

Will the 18-time Major champion sail smoothly into the final, or will this turn out to be only the second time in the last 49 Grand Slams where there is no member of the Big Four in the title match? Last time it happened, at US Open 2014, Cilic emerged as an unlikely winner. Ahead of the semi-final, here’s a look at the two clashes.

Sam Querrey (24) vs Marin Cilic (7)

Head-to-head: Cilic leads 4-0 (Cilic leads 3-0 on grass)

Sam Querrey, left, has never won against Marin Cilic in his career. AP

Sam Querrey, left, has never won against Marin Cilic in his career. AP

Querrey has made a habit of knocking out the World No 1 at Wimbledon – it was Djokovic that he defeated in 2016 and now Murray in 2017. The big-serving American is quite home when playing on grass and he became the first American male player to make a Grand Slam semi-final since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 2009.

Querrey ousted 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round, then won against another big-server Kevin Anderson in the last-16 and got past Murray in the quarters. All three of these matches went to five sets, and there’s good reason to believe that we might have another marathon match in the sem-finals as well.

Querrey and Cilic have faced off twice at Wimbledon before, with both these matches being decided by a fifth set. The last time these two met at on the courts of the All England Club, Querrey lost after five hours 31 minutes, by the epic score of 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (3), 17-15 — the second-longest match in Wimbledon history.

The 6’6-tall Cilic is always considered as a dark horse by many at a Grand Slam, and this time he lived up to his billing by making a strong run with straight-set wins over Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer, Steve Johnson and Roberto Bautista Agut. In the quarters, he defeated Gilles Muller, who had upset Nadal in his previous round.

Cilic won the US Open in 2014 and has a great opportunity to reach another Slam final, this time on his favourite surface. Currently coached by Jonas Bjorkman, Cilic has all the advantages going into the last-four. He has never lost to Querrey in his career, he knows what it takes to win a Grand Slam, and he should be the fresher of the two players, having spent an hour lesser on court than Querrey.

Expect lots of booming serves, quick games, short points and a tie-break or two in this clash of the big servers. Both men will be playing in their first Wimbledon semi-final, and in the era of dominance of the Big Four, this match is a rare golden chance to create history.

Roger Federer (3) vs Tomas Berdych (11)

Head-to-head: Federer leads 18-6 (Federer leads 2-1 on grass)

Tomas Berdych, left, will aim to defeat Roger Federer for a second time at Wimbledon when they face off in the semi-final. AP

Tomas Berdych, left, will aim to defeat Roger Federer for a second time at Wimbledon when they face off in the semi-final. AP

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Federer was the leading favourite even before the tournament started, and his case for an eighth title has only strengthened after the shock results in the quarters. While both Djokovic and Murray struggled with injuries, with the former retiring early in the second set of his quarter-final, Federer at 35 looks fit and raring to go.

The Swiss player’s decision to skip what could have been a brutal clay court season is beginning to look like a masterstroke, and he has been playing focused, high-quality tennis over the last few weeks. After winning the title at Halle, Federer hasn’t dropped a set in his opening five rounds at Wimbledon. He has been broken only thrice so far in the tournament, and was particularly impressive in his victories over Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic.

Federer is looking to become the oldest man to a reach a Wimbledon final in the Open Era after Ken Rosewall in 1974. In his way stands a familiar foe – Czech Republic’s Berdych. Federer and Berdych have faced off 24 times before in their career, and Federer has a healthy 18-6 advantage. Federer is on a 7-0 winning streak against Berdych; however, the 11th seed won their last meeting at Wimbledon in 2010.

Berdych has had a relatively rocky season so far, having made only one final in 2017. He lost early at Australian Open (third round to Federer) and French Open (second round to young Russian Karen Khachanov). The Czech player has been on a decline, having dropped out of the top 10. He recently parted ways with coach Goran Ivanisevic, and is the only semi-finalist without a title to his name in 2017.

Before Wimbledon, he reached the quarter-finals of the two grass-court warm-up events at Stuttgart and London. At Wimbledon, the 6’5-tall Czech did well to defeat David Ferrer and Dominic Thiem, before Djokovic retired from their quarter-final clash. Berdych made the final at Wimbledon in 2010, the same year he beat Federer. He will have to once again repeat that feat to reach only his second Grand Slam final.

The 31-year-old Berdych has his task cut out for him in the semi-final. Not only is Federer serving really well, his backhand has become a lethal weapon to add to his various strengths. The Swiss ace is determined to continue his great run in 2017 and win Grand Slam No 19. However, as this tournament has already shown multiple times, anything is possible in sport, and Berdych should aim to relish his chance as the underdog.

Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 13:57 PM

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