Before the start of play on Wednesday afternoon, many held the belief that were Murray to come through his tricky quarter-final tie with Spanish no. 2, David Ferrer, then he would surely be favourite to reach the final. With a comprehensive 6-7 7-6 6-4 7-6 victory over his agile opponent, Murray has now reached his fourth consecutive Wimbledon semi-final, a round in which he has, sadly, never bettered.
The game never swung in one particular direction and both players had their opportunities. The first two sets, as the score suggests, were close, with both players evenly matched up to the tie-breaks which were divulged equally. In the third set, Ferrer lost his serve at 5-4, sending a backhand too far over the baseline, and allowed Murray to serve the set out. After a brief rain delay, the roof was closed and the fourth set continued, again another close-fought encounter with the British crowd spurring their man on, pushing him over the finish line with a chorus of cheers and an appreciative round of applause for a strong opponent.
Never has there been a better opportunity though; the man standing in between the Scot and a maiden Wimbledon final is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga represents yet another challenge to Murray in that his game is radically different from Ferrer’s. The two have met each other six times in total on the ATP Tour and twice on grass – Murray has won five of those games (including both grass matches) whilst Tsonga’s only victory over the Scot came in the Australian Open, four years ago.
Both players showed traces of brilliance in their respective quarter-final bouts, Tsonga overcoming German, Philipp Kohlschreiber, to progress. Murray’s clean and efficient hitting was enough to quell the pin-point accuracy of Ferrer’s ground-strokes and though many expressed disbelief at the sight of Murray’s drop-shot count, which increased drastically through the match, his game plan worked well and whilst Tsonga is a much more powerful player, his playing style is erratic and unpredictable.
With Federer and Djokovic battling on the other side of the draw, it would be unwise to write off Tsonga due to Murray’s match record however. Tsonga, as mentioned, is powerful, hits the ball extremely well and makes it difficult for his opponents to keep the rallies going. Murray is reserved and likes to play it safe just a bit too much which will not cut it against the power of the Frenchman on the opposite side of the court.
How Will Murray Win:
Aggression. Aggression has to be the key to Murray’s game against Tsonga – he showed glimpses of it in the final two sets of the Ferrer game and he looked simply irresistible, fizzing balls past the hapless Spaniard on numerous occasions. It would be very unwise to sit back against Tsonga as it’ll allow the Frenchman to dictate the points and basically choose how he wants to win. Murray will, once again, need to live up to his pinned status of being a master at keeping the ball in play as defence will be his only offence at times against Tsonga. It’s important that Murray gets as many balls as he can into Tsonga’s backhand, his weak link, as it’ll give Murray the chance to get the upper hand and take control. Failure to do so will allow Tsonga to bully the Scot off the court.
Finally, he’ll need to block out everything from his head – the hype and expectation will surely be getting to him and he knows how big a chance this is. When he steps on to the court on Friday, his mind will have to be 100% on the game ahead. If he drops concentration for even a second, it could all be over in the blink of an eye. Nadal may be out, but Tsonga is one of the best players in the world for a good reason.
How Tsonga Will Win:
There is no expectation on Tsonga and he has very little to lose – yes, the opportunity is there for him as well, the opportunity to compete in his second ever Grand Slam final, and he knows with Nadal out, this is a chance for him as well but he is not the favourite, and that’s exactly how he’ll like it. He won’t be looking to win over the British home-crowd, and has already warned the Scot he intends to shatter Centre Court’s hopes and dreams when the two meet. To win, he’ll have to be smart – he plays a high-risk game which is powerful and deadly when utilised efficiently, but is also erratic and error-stricken. Tsonga’s serving this tournament has been solid and he’ll need to keep his first-serve percentage high as he knows perfectly well how good Murray is at returning the ball.
What Will Happen:
It’d be a surprising turn of events if this match didn’t go the whole way, all five sets. Both players will give it everything and this definitely promises to be one of the matches of the tournament. Tennis ability will be at its peak here and the Centre Court crowd will be witness to something quite spectacular – let’s just hope that spectacle includes the first British finalist at Wimbledon since 1950.
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