One week down & one week to go to crown a Champion at Wimbledon. The 4th round goes down on Monday with all eight matches to be played. Let’s take a look at the four quarters of the men’s draw again with three rounds done and look to the future to see what has changed and what might happen by next Sunday.
(1) Djokovic vs. (14) K.Anderson
(9) Cilic vs. (WC) Kudla
The big surprise to be in the 4th round here is obviously the American wild card, Denis Kudla. That spot opened up when 5th seed Kei Nishikori was forced out after the 1st round due to a recurrence of his calf injury picked up earlier in grass preps. Kudla has shown tremendous grit through three rounds, winning two of his three matches in five sets. He rallied from down two sets in the opening round against Pablo Cuevas and then battled back in R3 against Santiago Giraldo after trailing two sets to one. One of his best attributes through three rounds has been his break conversion rate. Kudla has broken his opponent 18 times in three rounds out of 31 break chances.
The problem in the 4th round will be that he’s facing his first big test & it’s in the form of Marin Cilic. Cilic’s serve has been on-point through three matches with 78 aces. He has been broken five times. Cilic has also worked hard to get here, winning a pair of five setters against Berankis & Isner. He has acknowledged that he’s being more aggressive on grass & that suits his ground game. Prior to the start of Wimbledon, I noted that there has been an unseeded quarterfinalist in the men’s draw six times in the past five years. There has been at least one unseeded quarterfinalist in four of the last five years. The draw that is left sees Kudla & Canadian Vasek Pospisil as the only two unseeded players left.
Cilic looks like a tough match-up for Kudla, but he’ll take note that Ricardas Berankis was able to extend Cilic to five sets in the 2nd round without having a huge game. Kudla plays well on grass and while his game isn’t “big” by say Cilic standards, he is aggressive from the baseline and has a solid return game. Kudla has said he believes a solid returner can beat a big server on grass. He gets his chance to prove that here.
Djokovic certainly has done little to indicate that he won’t be playing in the Final. He has won all nine sets in the first three rounds and rarely struggled. When you take into account that he has played some pretty solid players in Kohlschreiber, Nieminen & Tomic, you can make the case that he’s better prepared at this stage than most for success in the business end of the tournament. Kevin Anderson has used his massive serve to ride through three rounds. Anderson has doled out 79 aces and been broken just three times. That of course will be put to a stiff test against Djokovic who has broken serve 14 times in 29 opportunities.
These two have met five times with Djokovic winning four of five meetings. The last was in 2012. They met at Wimbledon in 2011 where Djokovic rolled in straight sets. This is Anderson’s second straight year making the 4th round. Last year, it was Andy Murray who bounced him in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 7-6. Murray saw 19 break chances in that match. I expect a similar result this round against Djokovic with the Serb likely to tire Anderson out with any rallies they engage in. That will take Anderson’s legs and over the course of the match, allow Djokovic more and more chances to get into Anderson’s serve. If Anderson serves lights out for the entire match, he could push this to four sets. That however is likely the end of the line with Djokovic’s overall game just too much for him to handle.
When the QFs roll around, if it’s Djokovic and Cilic, expect a better effort from Djokovic that the five setter last year that saw him struggle to put away Cilic. Cilic is still going to be tough because of the serve, but I think he’s still a step below his best that we saw last year. Advantage Djokovic.
(4) Wawrinka vs. (16) Goffin
(21) Gasquet vs. (26) Kyrgios
The top seed in the quarter, Wawrinka, has continued his superb play from the French Open with a trio of straight sets wins to get to the 4th round. I thought perhaps Fernando Verdasco would give him a real test last round, but Wawrinka has been unbreakable thus far with only six break chances offered up and all six saved. He’s nearly unstoppable if he’s getting his 1st serve in as he has won 85% of his 1st serve points. He faces Goffin who I thought might have trouble getting through to this round. His draw though gave him a nice path with Zeballos, Broady and a fatigued Baghdatis as easy fodder. Goffin has also not dropped a set with just four service breaks so far.
That figures to be a key against Wawrinka as Goffin will likely find it tough to crack the Swiss’ serve. Goffin’s best chance for an upset is going to be holding his own serve deep into sets and hoping that the continued pressure will weight on Wawrinka. The two did meet this January in Chennai with Wawrinka winning in straight sets 7-5, 6-3. Wawrinka is seeking his 2nd straight Wimbledon quarter final after a run that saw him lose in the opening round here three of four times from 2010-2013. I have a tough time seeing Goffin being able to take down Wawrinka if he continues to play at his current level. The serve and ground strokes are plus level and Goffin would need to find an extra gear. I think this will be fairly straight forward for the Swiss.
The more intriguing match left in this quarter certainly is Gasquet against Kyrgios. Both took out higher seeded opponents in the last round with Gasquet dismantling #11 Grigor Dimitrov and Kyrgios knocking out #7 Milos Raonic in four sets. This marks a repeat of a great five set match last year in the 2nd round that saw Kyrgios battle back from two sets down to win 10-8 in the 5th set. It helped pave the way for Kyrgios’ upset of Rafael Nadal and first Slam quarter final. If you ask Nick, he’s playing better right now and is healthier right now than he was at this point last year.
Gasquet is the one who is flying under-the-radar coming in with nine solid sets in beat three straight opponents in straight sets. He has taken care of his serve very well in those matches with just one break given up. Kyrgios has the flashier game of course with the huge serve that has only been broken twice. He had 34 aces last round against Raonic as his best output of the tournament.
Nine if the number Gasquet will have in his mind as he hits the court against Kyrgios. That’s the number of match points he had last year when they met. He’s admitted that this is a big revenge spot for him. Kyrgios figures to be the aggressor in this one, but Gasquet is the steadier player of the two if he is able to keep his serve tight. Gasquet will present more of a test in rallies than Raonic did last round with the Canadian admitting his foot is still bothersome. Expect Gasquet to make Nick work around the court in an effort tire his legs some with the hope that it will take off just enough to let Gasquet get at his serve a couple times. This one is likely to go four, maybe five sets again.
Whatever the outcome with Gasquet or Kyrgios winning, I am still going to stick my guns and take that winner as the surprise semifinalist over Wawrinka.
(3) Andy Murray vs. (23) Ivo Karlovic
(22) Viktor Troicki vs. Vasek Pospisil
Outside of Andy Murray, this quarter has seen a lot of twists and turns. Even Murray had quite the eventful third round match though with Trainer Gate. Wild six game swings for Andreas Seppi after a visitor from the trainer and then the same for Andy Murray after seeing the trainer. That would up pushing Andy Murray through in four sets over Seppi. Murray said his right shoulder tightened up during the stoppage for Seppi’s medical timeout. Don’t expect it to be a bother in this 4th round meeting with Karlovic.
The bigger problem will be the stout serve of Karlovic that has ripped off 40+ aces in each of his first three matches. Karlovic has been broken three times, so even the seemingly unstoppable can be stopped. Murray as one of the A+ returners on tour will be put to that task and it’s something he has been able to do against Karlovic. The pair have met five times with Murray winning all five. They met at Wimbledon in 2012 with Murray outlasting Karlovic in four sets. That included winning a fourth set tie break and breaking the tall Croat four times. Murray had good prep for this opponent back at Queen’s Club, playing big servers Kevin Anderson and Gilles Muller. He did enough against both to secure wins, breaking Anderson twice and Muller once.
Expect this match to begin tight with Murray trying to get a measure of the Karlovic serve. I would not be surprised at all to see Karlovic win one of the first two sets while Murray gauges his opponent. In the end though, unless Murray’s shoulder flares up, I do see him getting to the quarters with a four set win.
The other 4th round match sees two players vying for their first ever Grand Slam quarter final. Thanks to Dustin Brown, #10 Rafael Nadal did not figure into the mix here. This is also the part of the draw where David Ferrer would have been prior to his withdraw due to injury. Pospisl weathered a British crowd firmly behind James Ward in the last round as he scored his biggest career win with a five set win; 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 8-6. Pospisil has been at his best this tournament when his serve has been able to set up or earn cheap points. That was evident against Ward with eleven of his 19 aces coming in the final two sets.
For Troicki, it’s been the continuation of a soiid grass court run. Troicki made the Stuttgart Final and then the Queen’s Club semis in grass preps for Wimbledon. Through three rounds, he has used a solid serve that has pumped out 50 aces and the ability to break back on opponents to his advantage. Troicki has been broken eight times, but has scored 15 breaks of his opponents serve. He has seen at least nine break opportunities in each match.
Troicki has a little more experience having made this round of Wimbledon back in 2012 where he lost to Djokovic in straights. Pospisil thought should have plenty of confidence with his play this fortnight good enough to tussle with Troicki. As stated earlier, an unseeded player has routinely made the quarters over the last five years and I think this is the likelier player to have that shot. This should be a good one and I think Pospisil survives in a five setter.
(2) Roger Federer vs. (20) Roberto Bautista-Agut
(6) Tomas Berdych vs. (12) Gilles Simon
The top two seeds in this quarter in Federer & Berdych have made it through. Federer has easily looked the better of the two though. He has dropped just one set and that came to big serving Sam Groth in the third round in his 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 win. Federer has face just two break points through three rounds, saving both. He is winning right around 85% of the points off his 1st serve. That will make life extremely difficult on Bautista-Agut. RBA has rolled in two of his three matches with straight sets wins. The other was a five set battle that saw him steady himself after trailing Benoit Paire 0-2 in R2.
This looks like a great match-up for Federer who took out RBA in both meetings in 2014. That included a straight sets thumping at the U.S. Open in the 4th round 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. I would expect Federer to have a similar time in this one with the grass surface playing even better to his serve and ground game than the hard courts in Flushing. Expect a straight forward and likely, straight sets win for Federer as he returns to the Wimbledon quarters for the 13th time.
The Berdych-Simon clash figures to be much more competitive with Simon arguably playing better this fortnight than his counterpart. Simon won the five set battle against Gael Monfils last round, showing off his trademark backboard defense that just wears and wears on opponents. It forced Monfils to try and go for shots that resulted in 67 unforced errors. Berdych struggled to a four set win over Pablo Andujar. He had great difficulty with his serve at times and made far too many errors. In dropping the opening set 6-4, he was broken twice and made 13 errors. In the final set where Berdych wobbled again after taking a lead, he was broken twice with eight errors. He was able to put Andujar away in the tie break though for the win.
For me, this sets up fairly well for Simon to potentially score the upset. He won’t be as forgiving as Andujar was if given the opportunity to break. Simon leads the head-to-head against Berdych 6-4. Their only meeting this year saw Berdych roll Simon 6-2, 6-1 on an indoor hard court in Rotterdam. They have met once at a Grand Slam, but that was nine years ago at the Australian Open where Simon won in four sets. If Berdych is unable to keep his serve consistent and is forced to pump in a lot of 2nd serves, Simon will have a good shot to get Berdych engaged in those extended rallies that should favor him. Berdych has gotten less than 60% of his 1st serves in both of the last two rounds.
Berdych has only made it as far as the quarter finals three times in his career, while Simon is at his farthest point ever at Wimbledon. Three of Berdych’s last five exits at Wimbledon have come to players who were not expected to score the win; Marin Cilic (2014), Ernests Gulbis (2011) & Mardy Fish (2010). This looks a bit familiar to that and with Berdych being pushed twice by Chardy in the opening round and unexpectedly in R3 by Andujar, Simon looks to be a tough match-up in this spot. I like the upset and then Federer to secure his spot in the semis.