Men's Quarterfinal Previews and Picks
Senior editor Richard Pagliaro breaks down and predicts all four men's quarterfinals:
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (31) Florian Mayer—Head to Head: Djokovic leads 1-0
What Djokovic has to do to win: Impose his advantage in court positioning and big-match presence. Djokovic takes the ball earlier than Mayer; if he can hover on the baseline and rob the mechanical ball striker of response time, he can rush him into mistakes. The reigning champion is contesting his 13th consecutive major quarterfinal, while the 28-year-old German is playing his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 2004 Championships. Experience should help Djokovic handle the pressure better; an early lead can drain Mayer’s belief.
What Mayer has to do to win: Play big and bold when opportunity arrives. Unless Djokovic gets hurt or chokes, Mayer will not win a conventional baseline battle. He must red-line his game, attack second serves—as they may be the shortest ball he sees in a rally—and try to take the first strike when possible. Mayer hit 60 winners and broke serve six times in his fourth-round win over Richard Gasquet, and he will need similar stats to upset the defending champ.
The Pick: Djokovic in three sets. This match is entirely in Djokovic’s hands, and barring a physical or mental collapse—or Mayer channeling Lukas Rosol—an upset is unlikely. Djokovic is the best returner in the game—he has broken serve six times in three of his four tournament wins—has more shots, is quicker around the court, and is a much smoother ball striker.
(3) Roger Federer vs. (26) Mikhail Youzhny
—Head to Head: Federer leads 13-0
What Federer has to do to win: Get off to a fast start. Federer says the back strain that slowed his movement and caused him to take a rare injury time-out in his fourth-round win over Xavier Malisse is fine. Establishing an early lead will show his opponent, and the field, that his back is indeed sound. Step into the court and force Youzhny to defend: Federer hits the ball harder and should use his pace and depth to back the Russian behind the baseline.
What Youzhny has to do to win: Everything, as well as he can. Federer has thoroughly dominated this match-up, winning 29 of the 32 sets they’ve played. Youzhny must serve exceptionally well and hit his signature shot—the one-handed backhand up the line—with consistency and power. He should also try to draw Federer to net to open the court for passes, and try to make this a physical, running match to test the Swiss' physical condition.
The Pick: Federer in four sets. The six-time champion says he will be fine for the quarterfinals; if he is healthy, he has too many weapons and too much game for Youzhny. Federer crushed Youzhny, 6-1, 6-4, in last month’s Halle semifinals, has won all five of their grass-court matches, and should advance to his eighth Wimbledon semifinal.
(4) Andy Murray vs. (7) David Ferrer
—Head to Head: Tied 5-5
What Murray has to do to win: The 6’3” Scot must play the angles, use his advantage in speed, and win the majority of running rallies. Murray’s first serve is bigger than Ferrer’s, however he hits it flatter, which can mean a lower first-serve percentage. If Murray attacks short balls with authority, serves better than 60 percent, and hits double digits in aces—he’s met those marks in each of his four wins—he should prevail.
What Ferrer has to do to win: Make the forehand the key shot in the match. That's where Ferrer holds an edge, though he likes to play the inside-out forehand to open the court, which feeds into Murray’s backhand strength. Murray’s second serve can land short, so Ferrer should attack it as he did in their most recent meeting, when he converted 10 of 19 break points to beat Murray in the French Open quarterfinals.
The Pick: Murray in four sets. Although Murray has the home-court advantage and is playing for his fourth straight semifinal at SW19, don’t underestimate Ferrer. The feisty Spaniard has won nine consecutive grass-court matches, his last two meetings with Murray, and has taken down two Grand Slam champions—Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro—in succession. There is immense pressure on Murray, who's favored to reach the final with Rafael Nadal out of the picture, but if he manages the moment he should advance.
(5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (27) Philipp Kohlschreiber
—Head to Head: Tsonga leads 5-1
What Tsonga has to do to win: The 6’2” Frenchman hits a heavier ball—he has a near 50-pound weight advantage—and must impose his physicality on this match to make Kolschreiber defend. Tsonga’s serve and forehand are his strengths; he will want to engage Kohlschreiber in forehand exchanges and use his all-court skills to attack the net and end points while the German is stretched wide.
What Kohlschreiber has to do to win: Serve with the authority he’s shown so far and try to make his one-handed backhand to Tsonga’s weaker two-hander a consistent pattern. The 5’10” veteran has hit a tournament-best 88 aces and must serve effectively and try to take the net away from Tsonga when he can—Kohlschreiber won 17 of 21 trips to net against Brian Baker—to slow the Frenchman’s attack.
The Pick: Tsonga in four sets. Contesting his first career major quarterfinal, Kohlschreiber may swing freely feeling he has nothing to lose, and if he continues his strong serving he could test the 2011 semifinalist. But Tsonga is the bigger, stronger, more explosive player and has dominated this match-up, winning the last eight sets they’ve played. Tsonga can play attacking all-court tennis, and he should reach his second straight Wimbledon semifinal.