2018 Wimbledon: Review Of The Semifinals

History beckons Serena Williams as she attempts to win her 24th grand slam title as she takes on familiar foe Angelique Kerber in the ladies singles final on Saturday as the two seek to hoist the Venus Rosewater Dish trophy awarded to the ladies champion at Wimbledon. Serena, who is playing in only her 14th match after returning from maternity leave, has already won seven times and is bidding to equal the record of Margaret Smith Court, who also won 24 grand slam titles. Kerber, a winner of two majors, will be looking to win her maiden crown at SW19 in what is repeat of the final in 2016 which Williams won.

On Thursday, first on court was the eleventh seeded Kerber, a former world number and the highest ranked player left in the draw, she beat the 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3,6-3, seeded 12th. Getting an impressive 77% first serves in, the German broke serve four times and lost only once as the Latvian crumbled under the pressure of high expectations on the center court.

The 30 year old Kerber, winner of the Australian Open in 2016 and the U.S. Open also same year, has slipped in the rankings since, but has a win over Williams in grand slam final (at Melbourne) and is unlikely to be overawed by her opponent.

The 36 year old Williams followed Kerber on court in the second semi final on Thursday, and won 87% first serve points as against her opponent Julia Goerges, seeded 13th, in a routine 6-2,6-4 win which secured her place in what will be her tenth final. She won in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Prediction :- Serena leads Kerber 6-2 in their career head to head, including a 7-5,6-3 win over the German in the Wimbledon final two years ago. Despite her decline in the rankings the German will bring her fighting qualities against arguably the Greatest women’s player of all time. This is a tough one to call but I would pick Serena in three closely contested sets, possibly one in a tie-break.

Eighth seeded Kevin Anderson won a two hour fifty five minute fifth set 26-24 to complete a dramatic 7-6(6),6-7(5),6-7(9),6-4,26-24 win over the ninth seeded American John Isner in a match lasting six hours and 36 minutes on Friday. He becomes the first South African since Brian Norton in 1921 to reach the final at Wimbledon. Kevin Curren, born in South Africa reached the final in 1985 but was a U.S. Citizen.

After beating Roger Federer 13-11 in the fifth set of their quarter final match two days ago coming from a two set deficit and facing match point on his own serve, the 32 year old from Johannesburg was up against the man who holds the record for winning the longest match in tennis history lasting more than 11 hours in 2010 against the Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, 70-68 in the fifth set and played over three days. The American also held his serve 110 times in this year’s Championships before Anderson broke serve in the third set.

Isner, who came within two points of winning the match on Anderson’s serve at 6-5,30-30, hit 55 aces, while Anderson who served second throughout the final set, had 49 aces. After splitting the first two sets in a tie-break, Anderson broke in the eighth game but the Texan native won eight points out of 11 to level at 5-5. In the inevitable tie-break that followed, Anderson saved two set points but double faulted on set point at 8-7, and then Isner fired an unreturned serve down 8-9 before winning on his third set point.

Games went with serve in the fourth set before Anderson broke serve for a second time in the match to go 3-2 up only for Isner to break back. Just when the set was headed for another tie-break, Anderson broke Isner at 30 in the ninth game and despite squandering three set points levelled the match at two sets apiece.

In the decider, Isner received on court treatment for blisters on his right index finger, but bravely saved break point at 7-7, 10-10 and two more at 17-17. He was bidding to become the first American since Andy Roodick in 2009 to reach the final and only the 12th from his country to do so since Open Era. He struck 129 winners, while Anderson had 118.

Three time champion Novak Djokovic has beaten the two time champion Rafael Nadal to enter the Wimbledon final for the fifth time in his career after outlasting the world number one in a gruelling five set semi final 6-4,3-6,7-6(9),3-6,10-8 on Saturday. The match which was suspended with Djokovic leading two sets to one overnight was as good as any of their record 52 matches on Tour and the Serb who won the title in 2011, 2014 and 2015 will play the South African Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s final.

Djokovic, who was out of action following his retirement against Tomas Berdych last year in the quarter final nursing a right elbow injury, won his 250th Grand Slam match and now leads the Spaniard 27-25 in their career head to head. His last title came just before Wimbledon 2017 when he won the Eastbourne title on grass. Djokovic had a match point against Cilic in the warm up event at Queen’s Club just three weeks ago and will contest his first grand slam final since the U.S. Open in New York. He has won a total of 68 titles on the Tour.

In the much anticipated showdown between the two, the pair split the first two sets with one break of serve in each set and Djokovic saved three set points in the third set tie-break which he won 11-9 when play was suspended for the day at 11PM local time. When play resumed Nadal broke serve in the second game but Djokovic broke back in the fifth game. Nadal broke again in the eighth game and then won five points on serve trailing 0-40 in the ninth game to force the deciding fifth set.

In the final set both players held serve comfortably till 4-3 when Nadal saved a break point but held his serve. Djokovic then fell behind 15-40 before coming up with clutch service to lead 5-4. The Serb again faced three more break points at 7-7. Djokovic got out of it and had a match point in the next game which Nadal saved with a drop shot. Djokovic finally broke in the eighteenth game to love with solid returns and it ended when the Spaniard hooked his best shot wide. Djokovic will bid for his fourth title at Wimbledon, his 13th grand slam title and 69th overall.

Prediction :- Both players have already been tested physically and it remains to be seen if either player is able to bring his A game in the final. Djokkvic leads 5-1 in their career head to head and en route to his third title in 2015 came from two sets down against Anderson. But Anderson has been enjoying his best season on circuit as the Serb has slowly but surely regained his best form. Anderson has been on court for nearly 11 hours in his last two matches. He lost his maiden grand slam final to Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open last year. This one is tough to call but Djokovic should be the marginal favourite with his vast big match experience. Djokovic in closely contested 4 or 5 sets with maybe two decided in tie-break.

– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@gmail.com]

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