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Wimbledon 2018: On the doorstep to history

Wimbledon

Almost two weeks ago, 128 men and 128 women began with dreams of being called Wimbledon singles champions. Those dreams remain alive for just four men and two women. Here is a look at the lady’s final as well as the gentleman’s semifinals.

Ladies Final:

            (11) Angelique Kerber vs. (25) Serena Williams

            Head to head: Williams leads 6-2

It is highly doubtful that even Serena Williams herself thought she would be in this position again this soon after returning to the tour as a mom in March, but she has quickly reminded the world why she is one of the most remarkable athletes ever.

We all know that Williams’ game is very good in all areas, but the serve is the heartbeat. That has gotten better and better as this Wimbledon has worn on. The 23-time major champion won 87% of her first serve points in the semifinals against (13) Julia Görges. If the American puts up that kind of number in Saturday’s final, what Kerber does is irrelevant and Williams will tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major singles titles.

However, Kerber is formidable opposition. This match is not a foregone conclusion. The 30-year-old German has beaten Serena in a major final before and played her close in another. Kerber came up short against Williams at Wimbledon in the 2016 final, but defeated her to win the Australian Open that year.  After an awful 2017, Kerber is back to her 2016 level. Her lefty serve is not overpowering but is tricky. Kerber’s defensive skills have driven all her opponents insane over the years. You can check out some of those exploits below thanks to the hotshot tennis master YouTube channel. Serena will be forced to hit more quality shots in this match than any other in her comeback. She is more than capable, but it has been a long time since she was physically tested the way she will be in this final.

Prediction: Williams in three sets

            Gentleman’s Semifinals:

            (8) Kevin Anderson vs. (9) John Isner

            Head to head Isner leads 8-3

It is no secret that both of these near seven feet tall athletes have mammoth serves that often take the racquet out of their opponents’ hands. This will be close and there will not be many service breaks or long rallies. Anderson was down match point to (1) Roger Federer in the last round before coming back and shocking the world by winning 13-11 in the final set.

Isner was down match point in just the second round but is now one match away from becoming the first American man to reach a Grand Slam final since 2009. This is his first trip to this stage of a major, and just the second for Anderson. The American’s serve is reliable and big enough to help him hit through any nerves he might have. The same can be said for Anderson, but it is hard not to expect an emotional letdown after what the South African pulled off in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Isner in four sets

            (2) Rafael Nadal vs. (12) Novak Djokovic

Nadal Djokovic
Photo: standard.co.uk

            Head to head: Djokovic leads 26-25

Both of these all-time greats left Australia at the beginning of the year with early losses by their standards and injuries. They have each made leaps and bounds forward since then. Nadal did what he usually does by winning the French Open and is enjoying his first big run at Wimbledon since losing to Djokovic in the 2011 final. Djokovic reached the final at Queens Club before heading to the third major of the year. He looks healthy and happy on the court for the first time in over a year.

There are no secrets in this matchup. Both guys have all the shots and move extremely well. Thus, this match is a coin flip. However, a grueling clay court season followed shortly thereafter by a somewhat unfamiliar run to the semifinals of Wimbledon is a ton of mileage on Nadal’s body, which has started to break down more in recent years. This should surprise no one who has watched the 32-year-old play his extremely physical brand of tennis over the years.

Djokovic is a smidge younger, fresher, and did not have to play a nearly five-hour long quarterfinal the way Nadal did. It is hard not to imagine that making a difference. Tactically, Nadal has been standing even further back than usual to return serve during this time. He cannot afford to be passive and allow Djokovic too much open court to serve into. That really is the only exploitable area either man has shown so far at this year’s Wimbledon.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets

            The men’s semis will begin at 8 AM ET on Friday. The women’s final has a 9 AM ET start time on Saturday. All matches are on ESPN.

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