Roger Federer - The Championships - Wimbledon 2011: Day Seven

Tsonga vs. Federer:  Unexpectedly mortal at times in his four-set victory over Youzhny, Federer nevertheless arrived in his 29th consecutive Slam quarterfinal and must eagerly await the opportunity to erase the memory of last year’s defeat to Berdych.  This year, a similarly potent server awaits the six-time Wimbledon champion, but Tsonga failed to threaten the GOAT in their only previous Slam meeting while winning only one of their five previous collisions.  In that bizarre Canadian encounter, Federer squandered a double-break lead in the final set as his focus visibly ebbed.  Since such a lapse surely will not occur at his favorite tournament on the calendar, the Frenchman must replicate his outstanding form of the past two rounds in order to avoid another barely competitive loss to the Swiss.  Parrying Tsonga’s serve with the same reflexes that he has displayed against Roddick, Federer generally has neutralized his greatest weapon and trapped this volatile shot-maker behind the baseline.  The former Australian Open finalist overwhelmed Ferrer in all dimensions of the game, however, showcasing a more balanced offense than usual.  For nearly two full sets of his quarterfinal against Murray last year, he dominated an opponent with a more versatile, complete arsenal through the straightforward power that prospers on grass.  Then, just when a two-set lead edged within range, Tsonga suffered an untimely brain cramp that reversed the match’s trajectory.  While he escaped similar lulls against Dimitrov this year, he cannot expect to survive them against a top-five foe.  Clearly gifted with the weapons and athletic ability to upset the third seed, perhaps his greatest challenge lies in maintaining his concentration throughout what might become a very long engagement.  Unless Tsonga wins swiftly, his odds of victory will diminish sharply.

Murray vs. Lopez:  Far from a tranquil progress past overpowered opposition, the home hope’s route has proved riddled with obstacles from the first round onwards.  Losing his first set of the tournament and nearly extended to five sets against Ljubicic, Murray now faces the player whom his mother has nicknamed “Deliciano.”  “Delicioso” certainly described the gaudy statistics that Lopez registered in his startlingly routine straight-sets victory over Roddick, who never found a solution to the conundrum of his lefty serve.  More encouraging for the breathless British fans was the Spaniard’s desperate struggle for survival against Kubot in the following round, during which he recovered from a two-set deficit in a grueling epic that may have eroded his fitness.  Arguably the finest returner in the ATP, or perhaps tied with Djokovic for that honor, Murray rarely has met a serve that he cannot crack.  Thus, Lopez cannot rely entirely on that cornerstone of his game, nor can he depend upon approaching the net behind anything less than an outstanding approach, considering the Scot’s exceptional passing shots.  Since his strengths play into the hands of his opponent’s greatest weapons, the Spaniard probably must hope to open the match in such convincing style that Murray grows discouraged and apathetic.  But a scintillating victory over Gasquet will have bolstered the fourth seed’s ever-fragile confidence, while the Wimbledon crowd support appears to raise his spirits rather than weighing upon them.  Although their previous meetings have featured several reasonably competitive spans, Lopez has won only one of nine sets from Murray and has lost both of their tiebreaks.  Twice a semifinalist at Wimbledon already, the Scot has not fallen to anyone other than a former finalist there since 2006.

Tomic vs. Djokovic:  Still just a teenager despite his global notoriety, the precocious Aussie defies the stereotypes associated with ATP giants.  Rather than an overwhelming serve, a preference for short points, and mediocre movement, Tomic displays a balanced, flowing game sometimes compared to the model of Murray.  With that versatility can come indecision over which weapon to choose at a certain moment, and Tomic sometimes falls prey to that dilemma.  Similarly, he triggers memories of a much more talented Fabio Fognini for his tendency to meander through rallies of moderately paced shots before suddenly unleashing a scorching groundstroke past a befuddled opponent.  Although he defeated only one genuine contender (Soderling) during his quarterfinal surge, Tomic surrendered a set in only one of his four victories while illustrating his ease in all areas of the court.  In contrast, the second seed has struggled with his movement here after deciding to omit his normal grass-court tournament.  Dropping only a single set through four matches, though, Djokovic has served more convincingly than at past Wimbledons and has evinced a more aggressive mentality, unruffled by the end of his winning streak.  Since Tomic views his opponent so respectfully, one wonders whether he will enter their quarterfinal with the same steely poise that fueled his earlier victories.  And one also wonders whether the Serb will view this meeting with a hint of complacency, unconvinced that his 18-year-old admirer can summon the nerve to threaten him.  Even if Djokovic does, however, the prospect of the relatively raw Tomic winning three sets from a two-time major champion looks remote indeed.

Nadal vs. Fish:  Surviving not only Del Potro but a foot injury on Monday, the defending champion aims to repeat his victory over the American in the first round here four years ago.  Despite substantial improvements in his fitness and consistency since that encounter, Fish remains a relatively one-dimensional player who cannot threaten the Spaniard unless he serves to perfection.  In the fourth round, he did serve nearly to perfection against 2010 finalist Berdych in a victory notable for its lack of noteworthiness.  Destined to reach the top 8 after Wimbledon, Fish consistently threatened the Czech’s imposing serve while displaying no trace of insecurity that might have arisen from his recently elevated ranking.  The American did win a set from Nadal when they last played at the US Open, varying the direction and spin on his serve in addition to approaching the net at the earliest opportunity.  Since those strategies succeeded in rushing Rafa out of his comfort zone, albeit temporarily, Fish should remind himself that his chances improve in direct proportion to the number of strokes that he strikes from inside the baseline.  His improved fitness notwithstanding, he does not rank among the players who can outmaneuver Nadal from the baseline but instead must attempt to disrupt his rhythm.  Surely relieved and invigorated by his victory over Del Potro, the world #1 will thrive on the increasingly scarred turf that surfaces in Wimbledon’s second week.  As clumps of dirt mix with patches of grass around the baselines, the ball skids through the court slightly less swiftly.  That factor should facilitate Nadal’s attempts to defuse Fish’s principal weapon, although he probably needs no such assistance.

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