The line up for the men’s final has been set and deservingly it will be a repeat of the Queen’s Club final played the weekend before Wimbledon as the 2013 champion Andy Murray will battle Canada’s rising star Milos Raonic on Sunday. Raonic prevented a repeat of the 2012 final as he ended the run of the seven time former champion Roger Federer winning yet another epic five set match, while Murray who won at Queen’s Club, to become the only player to win the title five times, had a straightforward and routine 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over the 2010 runner up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
In the first semi-final played on the famed center court, the Swiss maestro elected to receive first and it seemed to have back fired as all it took for the sixth seeded Raonic was one break of serve to claim the first set 6-3 in 35 minutes, breaking serve in the fourth game. The second set was settled in a tie-break in which Raonic hit a double fault at 3-3, Federer clinched it 7-4.
In the third set the momentum looked to have swung decisively in Federer’s favour as he broke in the seventh game and served out of the two remaining games claiming the set 6-4. Raonic was under pressure throughout the fourth set saving three break points and coming from behind in four of the six service games.
Against the run of play it was Raonic who broke serve in a the twelveth game of the set aided by two successive double faults from the third seed who led 40-0 in that game. Raonic, who had rallied from two sets down against David Goffin broke the Federer serve after 18 consecutive service holds and then broke again in the fourth game to go ahead 3-1, a lead that he never surrendered.
Federer who has been sidelined with knee surgery in the month of February slipped on the grass in that fateful fourth game in which he was attended to by a trainer. He struggled to survive another service break but Raonic served out the ninth game to love, to wrap up the match that lasted three hours and twenty four minutes. The Canadian won 6-3, 6-7(4), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
It was the first time that Federer has lost a semi-final at Wimbledon in eleven attempts at SW19 – where he has been a losing finalist thrice. However he was quick to declare that he will be back next year and categorically stated it was not his farewell appearance. He was clearly upset with the missed opportunities and described the two double faults at 5-6 in the fourth set as inexplicable.
Raonic kept on plugging away and becomes the first player from Canada to enter the final of a grand slam. Federer who is still to win a title in 2016, holds the record for fifteen consecutive years with atleast one ATP title and had brought the crowd into raptures saving three match points against Marin Cilic after trailing by two sets in their quarter final.
The second semi-final was all Murray as he broke Berdych in the second game, and despite being broken back in the next game, the Dunblane native got another break in the eighth game before clinching the first set 6-3. Murray then saved two break points in a lengthy five deuce game at 2-3 in the second game, but then reeled off 15 of the next 18 points to claim the second set with two service breaks.
In the third set Murray never allowed any break points and got the decisive break in the fourth game. It will be his 11th appearance in the final of a grand slam where he holds an unimpressive 2-8 record. He claimed the Olympic Gold in London (beat Federer) and then beat Novak Djokovic at the 2012 U.S. Open and at Wimbledon 2013 to become the first British player in 77 years since Fred Perry in 1936 won the title.
Murray who celebrated his 29th birthday with a win at the Italian Open on May 15, has finished runner up to Djokovic at both the grand slams this year, the Australian Open in Melbourne and the French Open in Paris. He holds a 6-3 lead in career meetings against Raonic including the memorable five set win in the semi-final at Melbourne where he trailed 1-2 in sets to the 6 ft 5 inch Raonic.
He also beat him at Monte Carlo on clay and recently came from a set and break down at the Aegon Championships in London on June 19 to win on grass in three sets. With the win Murray qualified for the season ending finale at the O2 arena to be played in London on November 13-20 for the ninth time in succession joining World number one Novak Djokovic in the eight player field.
Prediction: Murray is at the peak of his game and has dropped just two sets to Tsonga in the last eight. Raonic making his first grand slam final has already played two five setters against Goffin and Federer dropping five sets in six matches. His time will definitely come sooner or later, but I pick Murray to win in four sets on Sunday.
It will be a rematch of the Australian Open final on SW19 on Saturday as top seed and defending champion Serena Williams will play the German Angelique Kerber. Both went through in straight sets on Thursday, Serena is bidding to equal the record of 22 grand slam titles set by Kerber’s compatriot Steffi Graf.
The younger Williams sibling Serena dismissed the Russian Elina Vesnina, more of a doubles specialist who was clearly overawed by the occasion and fatigued after some tense three set wins in previous rounds. It took just 48 minutes on center court for Williams to enter her ninth final.
She was followed by her 36 year sister Venus, a five time former champion here who was scripting her own Hollywood blockbuster to set up yet another grand finale between the two sisters. But it was not to be, the fourth seeded Kerber drained her energy and waltzed into her first final at the biggest stage in tennis. 28 year old Kerber won 6-4, 6-4 in only 72 minutes against her 36 year old opponent who was bidding to complete a heroic comeback after battling an auto immune disease with which she was diagnosed five years ago.
The loss prevented Venus becoming the oldest woman in the title match in 22 years when Martina Navratilova lost to Spain’s Conchita Martinez. The two sisters have contested four finals at Wimbledon and eight in grand slams. Serena lost to Roberta Vinci in the semi-final at Flushing Meadows which dashed her bid for a calendar slam, she is 0-2 in major finals this year losing to Kerber in Melbourne and to the Spaniard Garbine Muguruza at Roland Garros on June 4th.
Prediction : This is tough to call but Serena should claim her seventh Wimbledon and 22nd grand slam title in three epic sets to finally break the jinx.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]