Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all return to the final four of a Grand Slam for the second consecutive tournament, while Roberto Bautista Agut makes his first appearance in the last four at this level.
Agut is 2-0 against Djokovic this season while Federer versus Nadal is always a mouth-watering matchup and we look primed for another classic as they do battle for the 40th time.
Covers Experts’ Tennis Insiders dissect the Wimbledon betting odds and give their predictions, picks and best bets for Friday’s semifinal showdowns.
Djokovic was no doubt delighted to avoid Nadal in the semifinals this year after last year’s five-set epic that spread across two days. He’s looked sharp all tournament, upping the intensity when required.
That was evident in Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Goffin, winning 6-4/6-0/6-2 despite being a break down at 3-4 in the first set. His groundstrokes were simply sublime, timing the ball brilliantly, and his ability to take the ball so early proved extremely effective.
Agut had never reached the last eight of a major before 2019 but his run in Australia was very impressive (losing narrowly to Tsitsipas). He’s taken advantage of a significantly weaker part of the draw, one filled with high-profile players who had been struggling for form and fitness before the tournament.
He’s dropped just one set in making the last four and that’s a factor not to be underestimated. Unlike most surprise packages in a Grand Slam, he will have energy reserves for the biggest match of his career.
Agut has beaten Djokovic in their two meetings this season, but both came in the best-of-three format and it’s fair to say it was a much poorer version of Djokovic than what we’ve seen in recent majors.
Agut is an extremely well-rounded player, technically solid off both wings, a great mover, returner and defender from the baseline who loves to absorb his opponents’ pace and counter-punch. His serve is his weakest shot, however, and facing the greatest returner of all time will no doubt prove problematic.
Djokovic shares many similarities with Agut but he has the far stronger serve, and that’s a huge advantage to have on a grass court where the margins are so small. Agut has taken a set from Djokovic in all three previous meetings at majors, but Djokovic’s experience and edge in this matchup will be too much.
This will be the first meeting between these two on grass since their five-set epic in the Wimbledon final 11 years ago - described by many as the greatest match of all time.
Federer is a perfect 10-0 on the grass in 2019 but has suffered some wobbles at Wimbledon, dropping sets against Harris and Nishikori while his return of serve has been patchy at times. His grass-court game remains extremely effective though. His serve is one of the toughest to return and his ridiculously good hand skills allow him to play aggressively on a surface that rewards attacking tennis.
Nadal’s frustration at Wimbledon not seeding directly to current ranking was compounded when he was drawn in Federer’s half of the draw, and also had Nick Kyrgios for company in the second round.
He skimmed through that one (6-3/3-6/7-6/7-6) before taking out big servers Jo Tsonga and Sam Querrey in relatively straightforward fashion. Nadal has certainly looked more comfortable on grass in the past two seasons with his knees sticking up to the extra pressure that comes with bending and moving on this surface.
Federer has dominated Nadal on quicker surfaces in recent seasons, going 5-0 on hard courts since 2015. While Nadal recorded a straight-sets victory in Paris last month, the surface edge now lies with Federer and the tactics he tried to use on clay will be much more effective on grass.
Nadal has struggled to return Federer’s serve in recent meetings while Federer’s pace of play and relentless attacking style when returning has rushed Nadal and made him feel extremely uncomfortable. These tactics are similar to those Kyrgios has used against Nadal and they’ve caused him huge problems.
Nadal’s return of serve isn’t his strongest asset - it’s his movement and defense during the point that brings most success. But against big servers on quicker surfaces, he misses more returns and leaves more balls short resulting in an easy put away for the opponent.
His forehand is certainly better suited to slower, higher-bouncing surfaces due to the extreme grip he uses to generate vicious topspin. His strengths have caused Federer plenty of problems in the past and Federer’s backhand return has gone missing at times during this tournament - the wing Nadal will target with his lefty serve that can be so effective on grass.
Nadal has the advantage of having found some rhythm with his return game after facing Kyrgios, Tsonga and Querrey. And with the five-set format, he might be able to discover some patterns on the Federer serve. Expect another thriller as two of the greatest players the sport has ever seen do battle on the most prestigious tennis court in the world.
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