WIMBLEDON, England—It took an extra day to boil off the fat because of the rain, but today we'll see if we can dismiss the usual suspects and set the stage for the first all-German final at Wimbledon since 1991, when Michael Stich upset heavy favorite Boris Becker.
Are you ready for a Florian Mayer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber Sunday bust-up?
I didn't think so. So be careful what you wish for when it comes to the "Big Three."
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Here, as in the locker room, we take them one match at a time, and the two steps left before the final are huge ones for any man or woman, even if some are not quite the stretch as others.
Teutonic thunder has rumbled throughout this Wimbledon; for the first time, Germany had four quarterfinalists (the other two were Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber). But are we really going to see Mayer upset top-seeded Novak Djokovic and Kohlschreiber take down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga today?
Then there's the case of No. 3 seed Roger Fedrerer. He plays Mikhail Youzhny, No. 26, the replacement for projected quarterfinalist Tomas Berdych, who was upset in the first round by Ernests Gulbis. Youzhny is one of the three 30-year-olds in the quarters (you could call this the "Golden Pond" Wimbledon), and one of just three remaining players who have never won a grass-court title (the other two are Tsonga and Mayer). This may not be the tournament where Youzhny breaks through for any number of reasons, starting with the obstacle he faces today in Federer. The two have met 13 times and Federer has won them all, including five on grass.
Federer, another one of the 30-year-olds, hasn't won a major title in two-and-a-half years, and those who have resolutely believed that has one major left in that right arm think this may be it. That's partly why, earlier this year, I decided to collect my thoughts on The Mighty Fed and pull them together in an e-book (cover image on the right) that's available via Amazon.com. If you don't have an e-reading device, you an download it to your computer. The book has three sections: The Man, The Matches, and the Rivals. Hope you enjoy it.
So let's break down the men's quartefinals in a slightly different way than most handicappers:
Most Intriguing: David Ferrer (No. 7) vs. Andy Murray (No. 4) is going to be a tension fest, given the fact that win or lose, Ferrer stays with an opponent from the outset to the bitter end—even if he is prone to back up every so slightly at key moments against superior players. If you had floated this quarterfinal a year ago, most pundits and fans would have predicted a cakewalk for Murray. But Ferrer, the oldest man left in the draw, won on grass at 's-Hertogenbosch. He's won more matches his year than any other man (47) and he's on a sizzling nine-match winning streak. This is not the humble, bow-out-in-the-quarters-or-semis Ferrer we've known for so many years, as he showed in a spectacular victory over Juan Martin del Potro yesterday. The big question is, has Ferrer spent himself?
Least Predictable: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 5) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (No. 27) is a tough one to call, even if Tsonga leads the head-to-head 5-1. Tsonga has won their last two matches in straight sets, but they have no record on grass—and Kohlschreiber has been playing magical tennis on the turf. He hasn't lost a set since he knocked out Halle champ Tommy Haas in a tough five-setter in the first round. Tsonga has often found a way to disappoint in majors, sometimes in inexplicable fashion. Toss in the back troubles he had (but which he dismissed as something unlikely to recur) in his last win against Mardy Fish and you might agree: Who knows?
Shortest Match: Novak Djokovic (No. 1) vs. Florian Mayer (No. 31). If you saw the way top-seeded Serb ripped through his countryman Viktor Troicki the other day, you will understand why Mayer's return to the quarterfinals after an eight-year hiatus is apt to be a bittersweet one. The two have met just once previously, when Djokovic prevailed in Dubai, 7-5, 6-1. Mayer has been through hell at this tournament; he had to fight back from an 0-2 deficit (in sets) against countryman Philipp Petzschner in the second round, and he had to fend off two match points in his 7-5 in-the-fifth win over Jerzy Janowicz one round later. His quads are apt to feel like jelly once Djokovic begins to yank him around the court.
Sentimental Special: You don't have to be a fierce Roger Federer partisan to pull for him to make a great run here. With Rafael Nadal out of the hunt, even the fans of the Spanish champ might find room in their hearts to pull for Federer to make one more major Grand Slam statement.
Upset Special: At the risk of bumming out readers and fans in the UK, Murray seems to be in the greatest danger because of how well Ferrer has been playing on grass.