Previewing the Wimbledon 2012 men's quarterfinals. Can an underdog German or Michael Chang 2.0 spoil the party, or are we zeroing in on Djokovic-Federer and Murray-Tsonga in the semis?
Weather permitting (as always), we have reached the "women one day, men the next" portion of Wimbledon's second week. Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Kirilenko will need to finish their match, but aside from that, Wednesday will belong to the men at the All England Club. Let's take a look at each quarterfinal match and make some more awful predictions.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 31 Florian Mayer
Man oh man, did Novak Djokovic look good on Monday in disposing of countryman Viktor Troicki. He made just 11 unforced errors in 25 games on Monday, and since dropping the first set of his third-round match versus No. 28 Radek Stepanek, he has won his last six sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 and 6-3. He won his only meeting with Florian Mayer (7-5, 6-1 at Dubai in 2011), and he did so the way he's won most of his matches in the last couple of years: by completely dictating play on his serve (he won 85 percent of his first-serve points and landed two-thirds of his first serves) and saving something for the big points. Djokovic won eight of the 12 break points against Mayer (four of seven on Mayer's serve, four of five on his own) and controlled the match.
It is worth noting, though, that Mayer can punish weak second serves. He won 60 percent of Djokovic's second-serve points, and he has broken serve 16 times this fortnight (he broke Richard Gasquet six times in the fourth round). The Djokovic that we saw on Monday won't give Mayer any opportunities, but with a little bit of daylight, Mayer could still win a set or three.
Prediction: Djokovic in three.
No. 3 Roger Federer vs. No. 26 Mikhail Youzhny
The good news for Mikhail Youzhny is that he has indeed taken three sets from Roger Federer before, like he will have to do on Wednesday. The bad news: it took him 11 matches to do it. Granted, two of his three set wins have come on grass (including one in last year's Wimbledon Round of 16), but… they've played 13 sets. Federer beat Youzhny in four sets last year at the All England Club, and he won -- 6-1, 6-4 -- in the semifinals at Halle in June. In other words, it doesn't look particularly good for Youzhny, the 30-year-old Russian.
If Youzhny does have a chance in this one, he has no choice but to go all-out on his second serve. When they played in Halle last month, Youzhny won just 28 percent of his second-serve points. It was just 43 percent at Wimbledon last year. He seems more capable than some of doing damage to Federer's serve, but it just doesn't matter if his own is getting destroyed. He could be at an advantage if Federer's back is tight after he tweaked it on Monday, but a full-strength Federer wins this in straight sets.
Prediction: Federer in three.
No. 4 Andy Murray vs. No. 7 David Ferrer
If I ever found out that David Ferrer was total jerk off the court, it would break my heart. He's such a good easy-to-like scrapper.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) July 3, 2012
For all intents and purposes, David Ferrer is the 2.0 version of Michael Chang, scrappy as hell and capable of chasing every shot down, but very capable of putting some pace on the ball and hitting passing shot after passing shot if you are overly aggressive. He is giving up six inches and 25 pounds to the not-exactly-monstrous Andy Murray, but the two have split their 10 all-time matches. Of course, they have never played on grass, and four of Ferrer's wins have come on clay (he's 1-5 on hard courts), but still, we probably won't get very far writing off Ferrer. Just ask Murray, whose 2012 French Open run came to an end in the quarterfinals at the hands of Ferrer.
Ferrer has found his footing on the grass better this year than he ever had before, but let's not overstate things: Murray is still the clear favorite here. His serve completely let him down against Ferrer in Paris -- his first-serve percentage was just 53 percent, and he was broken 10 times -- but it's more dangerous on grass. That, and Murray seems to be playing better as the tournament progresses. He struggled to deal with monster server Ivo Karlovic in the second round (he dropped one set and won another in a tie-breaker), and he couldn't shake Marcos Baghdatis until the fourth set in the third round. But he easily disposed of Marin Cilic in the fourth round, and he's paced himself well. A win would give Murray his fourth straight Wimbledon semifinal bid, and it's really difficult to pick against him right now.
Prediction: Murray in four.
No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. No. 27 Philipp Kohlschreiber
No single player has benefited more from Nadal's shocking loss to Lukas Rosol more than Philipp Kohlschreiber. Instead of facing Nadal in the third round, Kohlschreiber has advanced to the quarterfinals without having to actually face a seeded opponent. He whipped a tired Rosol, then ended the feel-good run of Brian Baker with a straight-set win on Tuesday. (Granted, Kohlschreiber did beat Nadal on grass in June, so maybe he'd have had a chance to pull an upset of his own, but one has to assume he'd have rather played Rosol.)
The run of good luck in Kohlschreiber's draw comes to an end when he faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the "French but still athletic" fifth-seed who eliminated his first seeded opponent, Mardy Fish, on Tuesday. Tsonga reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2011 and has taken five of six career meetings versus Kohlschreiber (including the last four in straight sets), but the two have never met on grass. If Kohlschreiber can keep landing his first serve and keep racking up the winners like he has thus far in the fortnight, he might give himself a really nice chance to reach his first slam semifinal.
Prediction: Tsonga in four.