(1) Roger Federer vs (9) Kevin Anderson
Fed Seeks 16th Career Wimbledon Semifinal
It’s a perfect nine for nine so far this tournament for Roger Federer as he has advanced through four rounds without dropping a set. The latest victim was Adrian Mannarino with Fed taking it 6-0, 7-5, 6-4. was about flawless on serve, with a 90 percent win rate on first serve and 52 percent off his second. The Swiss saved all four break points against his serve, while cashing in on five breaks against the Frenchman on a dozen opportunities. Four the tournament, those were the first four break chances against the Swiss’ serve. Fed has been posting elite numbers with his first serve win rate at 90 percent or better in all four rounds.
The Fed ground game was clean against Mannarino with 44 winners to just 20 unnforced errors. So far, the top seed has amassed 163 winners with only 55 unforced errors. Federer has been able to control the points off his serve as well as bringing quality consistency from the baseline. Both his forehand and backhand have been solid as he has been able to wear down his opponents with quality depth and superb shot making at times. His net play has been borderline absurd with the top seed winning 72 of the 91 points played in that area. On top of that, he’s been returning the ball fairly well – taking at least 35 percent of the first serve points from each opponent. That figures to be a major challenge against the serve of Anderson however. Fed has converted 19 breaks on 46 chances so far this tournament.
Anderson Finally Gets Past Round Four
Kevin Anderson will already feel like he’s accomplished plenty at Wimbledon this year. He became the first South African to make a Wimbledon quarterfinal and broke through after failing in the fourth round three of the last four years. His 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 5-7, 7-6 (4) win over Gael Monfils also offered up another first – his first win over the Frenchman in his fifth try. Anderson was still steadu with an 82 percent win rate off his first serve and was decent at 55 percen off his second. Big Kev was broken four times however on just five chances. The 9th seed has previously been broken just twice in the first three rounds. Anderson really helped himself by getting to net, taking 43/62 points. He’d gone to net just 63 times all tournament before the Monfils match.
Anderson did have 44 unforced errors, but smashed 53 winners, including 20 aces. He has had at least 20 aces in every match with a high of 34. In watching some of the tape from the Monfils match, Big Kev was impressive in his shot making from the baseline. He was consistent enough with his ground strokes to provide quality depth that pushed Monfils from side to side and kept him pinned back. That enabled Anderson to craft those key points, where he was able to pounce at the right time to finish off shots at the net. I think once again the most impressive thing about Anderson is his mental strength. This was a difficult match with some very physical points, but he stayed strong in the tough moments and came through with a big win.
For Anderson, step one has to be figuring out how to take a set off of Federer. He has not done that in their previous four meetings. The last came in 2015 in Cincinnati, where Fed destroyed Anderson 6-1, 6-1 in their most lopsided meeting. All three other meetings came before that one and they have never met on grass. If there is a plus in losing to the same player four times, it is that the losses came before Anderson’s dramatic improvement. This won’t be the same Anderson that Federer sees on Wednesday. He’s become a bit of a Federer clone in his playing style – wanting to hammer the first serve and then look to move forward to finish off points more quickly. With that said, the serve is an obvious jumping off point for both players.
Federer has that smooth delivery and when he finds a rhythm as he has in London, he’s nearly unbreakable. It’s not all about getting aces with that first serve – his high this tournament is 16 with totals of 8, 10 and 12 in the other matches – it’s about precision to put the returner on their heels from the first point. Anderson isn’t a great returner, but he is adequate and can take advantage of poor placement. For me, Federer is going to feel comfortable as long as he’s getting good depth with his serves. If he is able to keep Anderson back along the baseline, then Federer turns the next shot into his advantage. I think he’ll look to challenge Anderson’s backhand and his famous short slice off the backhand will challenge Anderson to make shots off of low balls. That’s not a wheelhouse move for a taller player.
On the other side, Anderson’s serve has more natural power than Federer’s and that is a way for him to hang in this match. I think the first issue he may come across though is some fatigue from the Monfils match, which could directly effect his legs and serve. This will be apparent early if it is a problem. If it’s not, then Anderson is going to find his fair share of easy points with the angles he can create. He will want to extend Federer off the court when he goes to the forehand with the hope that even if Fed gets contact, it will be soft and Anderson will have a short ball to club on the return. If his serve is on, he can effectively jam Federer’s backhand return by bodying him. Fed may be left with a chip approach to try and get something on the end of those serves.
Net play figures to be a very integral part of this match. Both players have shown great prowess on the volley. Both will throw in some serve and volley action to challenge the other’s volley skills. Anderson is very good at that, but not quite as consistent as Federer is with his net volleys. Getting the serve down is the obvious key to executing this part of the game, which is again where I am curious to see if Anderson shows any fatigue from the physical match against Monfils last round. I expect Federer will look to exploit Anderson more in return with this tactic as I think his the South African’s return game is a definite notch below Federer’s. I do think if he’s capable though that Anderson needs to get to net consistently like he did against Monfils to try and wear the Swiss down a bit.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
I do think grass gives Anderson his best chance to break through and grab a set off of Federer finally, but I think the set up is less than ideal. Monfils made Anderson work hard, while Federer has seemingly run through most of his matches without much sweat. I think the early going in this match is a huge momentum boost or real shot to the confidence of Anderson. He needs to start fast and match Federer serve for serve without finding himself up against multiple break points. The more chances he’s facing of losing his serve early, the easier it is for this match to slip away from him in a hurry.
Federer is facing a different type of player in this match, so there is going to be some adjustment fo him and I think that could give Anderson a chance in the opening set. The thing that holds me back though is that Anderson’s return game may not be able to make enough of a dent against Federer’s serve to offer the South African more than a tie break chance to try and steal a set. Anderson is 3-1 in tie breaks at Wimbledon this year, while Federer has yet to play one. Fed did go 5-2 in breakers in the two grass court prep tournaments in Stuttgart and Halle, so it’s not like he isn’t ready to go if needed.
In the end, I can see a tight set or two, but I do think Anderson is going to be a bit compromised physically in this one and he has already achieved his goal of a personal best at Wimbledon. As if Federer needed any help, he may have gotten a slight assist from Gael Monfils last round and should advance one step closer to his 12th Wimbledon final.
Prediction: Federer wins in straight sets