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Three To See, Wimbledon: Day 8

Sunday, June 30, 2013 /by

(1) Serena Williams vs. (23) Sabine Lisicki
Head-to-head: Williams leads 2-0

Coming off a milestone victory—her 600th career triumph and 70th Wimbledon win—Williams is competing with the intensity of someone striving to play the perfect match.

When the two fastest servers in the tournament collide—Serena smacked a tournament-best 123 M.P.H. serve, while Sabine has slammed a 122 M.P.H. bomb—breaks could come at a premium. Considering Lisicki is a dynamic grass-court player with two quarterfinals and a semifinal appearance at SW19 to her credit, and coming off a three-set win over Samantha Stosur (the third fastest server in the event), you can argue Lisicki poses a similar threat to Serena that Svetlana Kuznetsova did at Roland Garros earlier this month.

In their two prior meetings Serena surrendered a total of four games. The 16-time Grand Slam champion is a powerhouse even more explosive playing off pace, which she'll get plenty of  from Lisicki, who isn't shy about ripping her shots.

I like Lisicki's game and spirit—she doesn't shrink from tennis' grandest stage—and she is my darkhorse pick to win it all. But Serena is the most lethal server and the most dangerous returner in the game, is on a career-best 34-match winning streak, does everything a little bit better—and I see her having the answers to advance.

The Pick: Williams in two sets

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (13) Tommy Haas
Head-to-head: Djokovic leads 5-3

The 35-year-old Haas is bidding to become the oldest man to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since Tom Okker in 1979 and knows he has the all-court acumen and grass-court skills to take down the world No. 1. He's has beaten Djokovic in both of their grass-court meetings (in the 2009 Halle final and '09 Wimbledon quarterfinals), dismissed Djokovic without dropping serve in Miami in March, and beat Roger Federer in the 2012 Halle final.

Haas has variation off his one-handed backhand, is cracking the ball with authority, and competing with clarity. Even when he's busy barking out his eruptions of angst like a character in a Quentin Tarantino film, it seems to help him mentally reset (most of the time).

Djokovic delivered 38 winners against only three unforced errors in a near flawless third-round thrashing of Jeremy Chardy—one of his most impressive performances of the year—to reach the round of 16 without dropping a set for the first time. The top-seeded Serbian can transition from defense to offense with a single shot, is moving beautifully on the grass, and looks inspired, but knows the threat Haas poses. Djokovic swept Haas in straight sets earlier this month in the Roland Garros quarterfinals, and a fast start is important today.

The 2011 Wimbledon champion is 28-2 when winning the first set this year, is 12-4 in tiebreakers (Haas is 9-7), and is playing for his 17th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. I believe he'll make it there.

The Pick: Djokovic in four sets

(2) Andy Murray vs. (20) Mikhail Youzhny
Head-to-head: Murray leads 2-0

Gold medalist Murray is playing for his sixth straight Wimbledon quarterfinal and will have his nation on the verge of a full-fledged celebration should he follow Fred Perry as the first Briton since 1936 to win Wimbledon. But Youzhny has a history as a professional party-pooper.

The Russian's flat strikes and savvy all-court skills play well on the lawn as his shots stay low, and he can whip his one-handed backhand up the line. That could be a critical shot should Murray leave the ball short in the court.

The Centre Court crowd will be overwhelmingly in Murray's corner, but Youzhny has excelled in the face of home crowds before: He was the first man to rally from a two-sets deficit in a fifth and decisive match in a Davis Cup final, beating France's Paul-Henri Mathieu to clinch Russia's first Cup in the 2004 final in Paris.

Youzhny can do a bit of everything, but Murray has been a terrific problem-solver in reaching the fourth round without dropping a set, breaking serve 14 times in nine sets. Murray is the better mover, owns the stronger first serve, has worked to shore up his second serve, and should be highly motivated knowing he can reach the final without facing a seed higher than No. 20. I don't see him making a mis-step here.

The Pick: Murray in four sets


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