2017 Wimbledon Quarterfinals Preview

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It’s time to get down to the final four in the men’s draw as quarterfinal play is set for Wednesday at the All-England Club. Here is a look at all four of the day’s matches.

Andy Murray can make it eight out of the last nine years in the Wimbledon semifinals with a win over Sam Querrey on Wednesday. The last time that Murray missed out on the semifinals was when Grigor Dimitrov spanked him in straight sets in the 2014 quarterfinals.

(1) Andy Murray vs (24) Sam Querrey

It’s been a prototypical Andy Murray run so far at Wimbledon through four rounds. He’s been more grit than good on occasion, but fighting as hard as anyone to get the win. The fourth round against Benoit Paire exemplified this trait as Murray was broken twice in the opening set, but still found a way to wiggle through in a tiebreak to put his stamp on the match. From there, Murray gradually served a bit better and watched Paire implode with 44 unforced errors. The top seed was clean off the ground with just 25 winners compared to 50 for Paire, but just eight unforced errors. Murray would win 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4. The fourth round marked the third time in four matches that the Scot had ten UEs or less.

Querrey meanwhile was put to the test by big serving Kevin Anderson. Both players bombed 31 aces and didn’t allow for much off their serve. Querrey would win 83 percent of the points off his first serve and 59 percent off his second. Anderson won 85 percent and 50 percent. Querrey did make the most of the few opportunities to break Anderson, converted on two of three break chances. Anderson would fail to convert on six of seven against Querrey. The 24th seed was also more precise off the ground with just 18 unforced errors to 28 by Anderson. Querrey will take confidence into the semifinals after failing to convert on multiple match points in a fourth set tiebreak, he came back in the 5th and took it with an early break for the 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (11), 6-3 win.

Historically Speaking

Murray has beaten Querrey in seven of eight matches all-time. Querrey’s lone win was on hard courts in Los Angeles in 2010 in three sets. Twice on grass, Murray has handled Querrey in straight sets. The last grass meeting was at Wimbledon in 2010. Their last meeting overall was at this year’s Australian Open where Murray trounced Querrey 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Murray handled Querrey’s serve with ease, breaking him five times on eight chances. The American won just 55 percent of his service points overall. Murray was solid on serve, broken just one time on three chances. He would rack up 40 winners to Querrey’s 31 with Querrey having 27 unforced errors to Murray’s 22.

Grass would figure to aid Querrey’s serve a bit more over that last meeting in Melbourne. Despite the “slow” grass this year at the All-England Club, Querrey has still been dominating with his first serve winning 80 percent or more in all four matches. Certainly, that will be put to the test against an A+ returner in Murray. In their two previous grass court meetings, Murray melted the Querrey serve for nine breaks and was especially punishing on Querrey’s second serve. The American won just 21 of 65 second serve points in those meetings in Newport in 2006 and Wimbledon in 2010. The 53 percent win rate on second serve in Australia this year was by far Querrey’s best against Murray and he’ll need that to be even better in order to spring an upset.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

There’s not much surprise awaiting this match. Querrey wants to serve big and then use that to his advantage to move in when possible and finish points in a short and aggressive fashion. Murray’s goal is to get his return mojo working and trap Querrey into longer rallies where he can exploit his speed and agility advantages over the American. There is certainly enough power in Querrey’s serve and his forehand to compete against Murray. The question will be whether he can find enough consistent success with his serve to set up those quick points.

History says it will be difficult and Andy has a terrific track record against big servers. Looking at Murray’s results on grass from 2015-2016, he beat Gilles Muller, Kevin Anderson, Ivo Karlovic, Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic (2x), Nick Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. Only Tsonga won more than one set off of him. Murray may not be winning with the cleanest tennis around, but his will to fight and problem solve has been pretty good. Give Querrey a set here, but I think Murray moves on.

Prediction: Murray wins in four sets

Marin Cilic looks to break what has been a quarterfinal rut in his Grand Slam career when he takes on Gilles Muller. Cilic has made three straight Wimbledon quarterfinals prior to this year without advancing. He’s just 3-6 at this stage in Slams for his career.

(7) Marin Cilic vs (16) Gilles Muller

If there has been a top ten seed who has slipped under-the-radar more than Marin Cilic has the past week, I don’t know him. All the 7th seed done is win in straight sets all four rounds. He’s now 10-2 on grass this season. His fourth round win was easy as he obliterated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Cilic took 37 of the 67 points played off RBA’s serve and was good enough with his own to be broken just once on six chances. Cilic tallied 39 winners and 19 unforced errors. He hasn’t been perfect this week despite the straight sets scoreline as he has been broken five times. The Croat has been hitting the ball big mostly, which has led to 192 winners and just 87 unforced errors.

What else can you say about Gilles Muller but wow. 2017 has been a career-year for the 33-year old who has won his first two ATP titles and now advanced to his second career Grand Slam quarterfinal. The 15-13 5th set win over Rafael Nadal in the fourth round was epic after the big lefty nearly let a two sets to love lead slip away entirely. He stood tall in the biggest moments though, saving 14 of 16 break chances. He converted on three of eight chances against Nadal. Muller also went “bonus” style against Lukas Rosol in round two when he came through 9-7 in the 5th and has shown such a cool and collected approach in each match to get over the finish line.

Historically Speaking

This is meeting number three between these two with Cilic having won the two previous matches. That included a three set win at Queen’s Club in June. The 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 Cilic victory saw 42 combined aces and three key breaks of serve. It was Cilic who was able to do a lot more against Muller’s serve as he crafted 13 break chances, but only cashed in twice. Muller won just 74 percent of the first serve points and 49 percent off his second. Cilic’s numbers showed him with win rates at 91 and 69 percent.

Their other meeting was indoors in Rotterdam in 2016 where Cilic won 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7). Cilic again saw more off the Muller serve, although he could not convert on any of his five break chances. Muller did not see a single break chance off of Cilic in that match. Cilic again was just slightly better with the serve numbers in that one, but they were much close than what their match showed in Queen’s Club.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Despite there being very few long rallies in the nearly five hour match between Muller and Nadal, you could clearly tell in Muller’s post match comments that fatigue could be a playing partner for him on Wednesday. While he may not encounter a ton of long rallies against Cilic either, if his legs are less than steady, his serve loses power and some of the great volleying we saw from him could be far less effective. Cilic has shown to be the better returner of these two and figures to have some chances off of Muller’s serve. He needs to convert those early and plant the seeds of doubt.

Cilic has shown a desire to come forward more on grass recently and I would expect he’ll look for the opportune times to do that again. If he’s serving big and getting Muller off balance on return, he can pounce and move forward to finish off easy points. I also won’t be surprised to see him work Muller into longer rallies to test Muller’s fitness. Cilci’s forehand and backhand are both legit weapons. Look for the Croat to make Muller run laterally in an effort to put more miles on those legs.

Muller can still contend in this match if his serve stays big and consistent early on. If it’s off due to some fatigue in those legs, this one might not provide a ton of entertainment.

Prediction: Cilic wins in straight sets

Roger Federer gets a shot at revenge when he battles Milos Raonic for a semifinal spot. Last year, it was Raonic who stunned Federer in five sets to make his first Grand Slam final here at Wimbledon. This is their first meeting since that match.

(3) Roger Federer vs (6) Milos Raonic

Little has gone wrong for Roger Federer so far this year at Wimbledon. The 35-year-old has yet to drop a set through four rounds. Since his shortened first round match with Alexandr Dolgopolov, Fed has won the last three rounds in straight sets. He has been broken once in each match, but overall has given out just nine break chances in those last three matches. Fed’s win rate on first serve is solid at just a hair under 80 percent and he’s winning an astounding 75 percent off his second serve. His ground game has been clean with 116 winners in the last three rounds and just 33 unforced errors. Even more chilling for Raonic is that just 18 of those UEs have come in the last two rounds. Federer’s 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Dimitrov was a clinic with the Swiss breezing through his service games more the most part and playing the quick and aggressive style that suits grass so well.

Raonic meanwhile has had to struggle to this point with his ground game in a constant state of flux. He started slowly against 10th seed Alexander Zverev in the fourth round, but was able to stabilize himself enough to pull out the 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win. In the early going, Raonic’s serve was out of sorts and he was spraying errors off both wings. He figured things out in rallies though by starting to use a bit more slice on his backhand that seemed to help him set up better against Zverev as the match wore on. The stats definitely showed the Raonic struggle. In the sets he lost, his winners to unforced errors ran 22:24. In the three sets that he won, Raonic’s ratio was 39:18. It is no surprise that his serve also showed much better when he was able to win sets with just seven break chances against is serve in the three sets won, while he had ten chances against his serve in the two sets he lost.

Historically Speaking

Federer leads Raonic 9-3 in their head-to-head, but it was the Canadian beating Roger last year both in Brisbane in January and then at Wimbledon. Federer had trouble getting breaks off Raonic with just two in the seven sets that they played in 2016. Raonic was able to break Federer five times. The Wimbledon meeting saw Raonic rally to secure his first Slam final via the 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. Federer may still be lamenting the 12th game of the fourth set where it looked like the set was locked in on a tiebreak with Fed up 40-0 on serve. A pair of double faults in that game really set up Roger to fail. A double fault would also seal Federer’s fate in the fifth set with Raonic getting a break chance in the 4th game after the Swiss had the double fault.

There is a bit of an air of difference this year. For one, Federer is not dealing with any knee issues as he was when he fell and hurt himself in this exact match-up last year. His movement has been sharp. The second big difference is Raonic. He has struggled to find consistency off the ground for a good portion of this season and has not looked as comfortable on grass as he’s been in the past. Raonic said after the Zverev win that he still feels like shot-for-shot that he’s doing the right things, but he’s had trouble finding and maintaining a rhythm with his ground strokes. My opinion is that has carried over into some of his service games and made him less effective at times there too. That was fairly evident against Zverev who did a good job on return, especially in the first two or three sets.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

If Raonic can ever get locked in with his ground strokes, he can still be an absolute monster in this tournament. To his credit, he’s found a way to get to this stage without playing his best. That is a testament to his problem solving skills on the court. It will be interesting to see how Federer engage Raonic this year. Last year, Raonic was so comfortable on grass that he seemed to be gliding across the surface. This year? His movement has not looked as fluid at times and I think Federer will mix things up to test that movement. He doesn’t necessarily need to get Raonic into baseline rallies, but that is the area where Raonic is struggling the most off the ground. That plays a bit away from Federer’s desire to play short points and aggressively come to net.

Raonic needs to find his best serve in this spot to contend against Federer how has had his best serve for the majority of the tournament. Raonic’s serve really lacked something early against Zverev who was able to get to a lot of more balls than I was expecting. I think if Federer finds that same success then Raonic is really going to have a difficult time in this match. In last year’s match-up, when the Swiss got good swings on return, he was able to win a lot of those points by positioning himself well for the next shot. Raonic still fires ballistic missiles at opponents most of the time however, so Federer will have to make the most of what could be far less than the 17 opportunities that Zverev got in round four.

I’m sure he won’t admit it, but I think a win over Raonic would complete the cathartic cycle for Federer. I can’t say Raonic won’t win here because he is fully capable of it even with his ground strokes off. He can serve his way late into sets and then potentially steal the set with a moment or two of brilliance or a lull from Federer. That said, if Federer plays with the crispness he has shown on grass since the Tommy Haas loss, Raonic will have to play much better than we’ve seen from him to contend. Fed simply has been the more consistent player and as long as nerves don’t attack him, he should advance.

Prediction: Federer wins in five sets

Novak Djokovic will look to continue his roll on grass as he tangles with Tomas Berdych for a spot in the semifinals. Djokovic is 8-0 on grass this season and has yet to drop a set in London this year.

(2) Novak Djokovic vs (11) Tomas Berdych

The Serb’s delayed fourth round match went off without a hitch on Tuesday as the second seed dispatched Adrian Mannarino in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Djokovic was only broken one time on two chances, while he crafted ten break opportunities against the Frenchman. He would cash in on four of those with breaks of serve. Other than giving back an early break in set two, the Serb was in control. He broke early in each set to give himself an easier route to the quarterfinals. Djokovic won 71 percent off his first serve and 67 percent off his second. The first serve win rate was a little bit lower than most of his previous matches, but in line with what you’d expect. The Serb racked up 36 winners, but had his tournament high with 24 unforced errors.

Berdych received a much stiffer challenge from 8th seed Dominic Thiem. Berdych would outlast Thiem in five sets 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Overall, it was a clean match from Berdych with 41 winners and just 19 unforced errors. He would win 83 percent of the points on first serve and 50 percent on second serve. He saw far more opportunity against Thiem’s serve with 13 break chances than he dished out with just five break chances against his own serve. Berdych converted on three breaks, while Thiem could only muster one break of serve. Berdych has only been broken three times all tournament with minimal opportunities given out to his opponents.

Historically Speaking

The numbers look bad, real bad if you’re a Tomas Berdych fan. Djokovic is 25-2 against the Czech. They met three times in 2016 with Djokovic taking all three in straight sets. Berdych’s last win over Djokovic? It was on clay at the Rome Masters in 2013. Djokovic is 4-1 against Berdych all-time at Grand Slams, but it was at Wimbledon in 2010 that Berdych scored one of his two wins. Djokovic returned the favor by taking out Berdych at Wimbledon in 2013 in straight sets. Those are their only two meetings on grass. The major difference between the win and the loss was Berdych’s ability to serve well in the semifinal upset in 2010.

Overall, Djokovic seems to be able to get after Berdych’s serve with relative ease. He broke the Czech a dozen times in the seven sets they played last season. Berdych meanwhile did not have that same rate of success against the Djokovic serve. Berdych broke just four times. His second serve was the real trouble maker, winning under 40 percent in two of the three 2016 matches. Berdych’s serve has been pretty exceptional on grass this season, but this will be by far the best returner he has faced and obviously the biggest challenge.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Djokovic seems a bit testy following the non-rescheduling fiasco on Monday. He also voiced his concerns over the playing surface, citing a hole he discovered on Centre Court during a match. He definitely showed some continued frustration at points against Mannarino on Tuesday for not finishing him off earlier. That’s some of the Djokovic we’ve seen this year when he’s not been at his best. That “edge” can walk a fine line between helpful motivation and bad anger that can lead to poor problem solving on the court. Fortunately for Djokovic, he’s been able to solve Berdych almost every time they’ve played.

There is no way that isn’t playing on the mind of Berdych heading into this one. The positive of course is that he’ll have that “nothing to lose” mindset in this one, but that won’t do him any good if he doesn’t bring his A+ game on Wednesday. For Berdych, he absolutely must get his first serves in consistently and make them useful. If he can hit his spots, then at least he has the chance to move forward and try to finish points off more quickly at the net. If he’s not hitting his spots, then Djokovic will eat into his serve gradually and he will break him again and again.

There is still just enough from Djokovic to suggest that he could get frustrated more readily if his game isn’t on par. It’s been pretty solid through Eastbourne and four rounds in London. There’s enough that Berdych might be able to squeeze the Serb for a set, but overall, this looks too comfortable a match-up for Djokovic. Expect him to find a way to finish it off and head back to the semifinals.

Prediction: Djokovic wins in four sets

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