Giving tennis more than a shot

Nice Quarters, Mouth-Watering Semis (2)

 

If the top half quarter-finals were tight two-setters, the ones from the bottom half were quite the opposite: for the most part without any doubt as to who will emerge the victor, which leaves another extremely interesting semi-final to look forward to.

 

Bottom half: Novak Djokovic (Serbia) [2] vs Andy Murray (Great Britain) [3]

The quarter-finals of the bottom half were the shortest of the four matches played today, and they were not always the most contested, although for very different reasons: fatigue and injury played a part in the results.

 

Andy Murray d. Nicolás Almagro, 6-4 6-1

It seems like his lost set in the round-of-16 has given Andy Murray a strong kick in the backside coming into his quarter-finals match against Spain’s Nicolás Almagro, sole hope of the Armada in the men’s singles.

 

Andy Murray played an impeccable match, particularly at the service line (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The Scot started the match on fourth gear, serving impeccably and mixing aggression and defence perfectly. Almagro, for his part, also started quite strong, defending his ground as much as he could until he got broken mid-set, the only break point conceded by both players in the set.

 

However, it soon became obvious that something was wrong with the Spaniard, who has been suffering from a shoulder injury since Båstad. After the first set, he asked for the trainer and we could see him looking forlornly at his box, saying, “I can’t anymore.”

 

Still, he stubbornly refused to give up and played on, even though it was more and more obvious that he could barely hit anymore, slicing his backhand more than hitting it as he normally does, paining to serve, and Murray broke him from the start, and then twice more to get away with the match in 59 minutes, with Almagro only able to win 8 points throughout this final set.

 

Nicolás Almagro stubbornly played on, despite his shoulder problems (Photo: Martin Bernetti/AFP/GettyImages)

Despite his opponent’s injury, Murray was dominating the play, especially on his serve, conceding no break points, with 81% of first serves (and 28/30 points won with it), including 15 aces, one of his best serving performances of the year, if not his best.

 

As for Almagro, he deserves praise for having continued on when most players would have retired. We don’t know yet the gravity of the injury, but he has been playing on with it for nearly a month and seeing him pull out of the Masters 1000 of Toronto, which starts next week, is a very strong possibility, in my mind.

 

As for Murray, he shows again how much more confident he is playing at home, on grass, and reaches yet another semi-final on the All-England Club’s courts.

 

Novak Djokovic d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1 7-5

Novak Djokovic was not always convincing, but proved much stronger than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The big question as this match approached was: how much gas is left in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s tank? We had our answer very quickly, as the Frenchman was broken at his very first service game. Novak Djokovic didn’t have much to do to take advantage of the situation, although Tsonga, despite obvious fatigue, managed to save seven break points, and was broken twice, to be served a baguette.

 

The second set was far more competitive, with Tsonga waking up to break the Serbian at his first service game. However, Djokovic broke back in the fifth game and both players remained in an impasse until Tsonga served a second time to stay in the match, at 5-6, and then went on to lose his serve and the match.

 

Despite a good fight in the second set, it was clear that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had run out of gas (Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP/GettyImages)

Then again, it was a good second set from Tsonga, obviously tired but giving all he had to try and force a third set. However, if he was dominating in the first set, it was a little less the case in the second from Djokovic, who showed signs of vulnerability at times, of which Tsonga could not take advantage.

 

It nevertheless remained a good win from the Serbian, who can improve on his 2008 results.

 

Tsonga, for his part, can still win a medal, as he and Michaël Llodra will face Spaniards David Ferrer and Feliciano López, the surprise of the Games in doubles, in the semi-finals tomorrow. With Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet also in the semi-finals, France is assured of at least one medal in men’s doubles. Benneteau and Gasquet will face the Bryan Brothers.

 

The keys for the match: confidence and aggression

Tomorrow will be the fourth match of the season between Murray and Djokovic, and the Serbian leads 2-1, having won a tight five-setter in the Australian Open semi-finals and the Miami finals. Murray had convincingly won their semi-final match in Dubaï in between.

 

I think that whoever will win this match will be the one who will display the most confidence in his abilities, but most of all, who will play the most aggressive tennis. We know that both players excel in defence, but I think that the one who will take the most risks will end up victorious.

 

Four men, one goal: the Gold medal

Five days ago, 64 men were in contention to bring one of the biggest sporting honours to their country. Today, four remain, who will fight tomorrow to bring one of the precious medals home.

 

Who will it be? We will have a part of the answer tomorrow, and the full on Sunday.

 

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