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Wimbledon, Day 11: Gentlemen's Singles Semifinals Preview

Three of the top four seeds in the draw made the semifinals of Gentlemen's Singles draw, so it could be said that the tournament has played out pretty much as expected.  But since the one top-four seed missing is six-time Wimbledon champion No. 1 Roger Federer, that means this still a surprising final four.

No. 12 Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. No. 3 Novak Djokovic (SRB) -- The much-anticipated rematch of the 2009 Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick gives way to a decidedly less-anticipated but still intriguing semifinal between No. 3 Novak Djokovic and No. 12 Tomas Berdych.

Berdych had not made a grand slam final before this year's French Open, and now he has made two in a row (the last player to do that? Novak Djokovic, in 2007).  His draw was pretty easy until the quarterfinal, where he made amends for a previously easy road by becoming the first player to beat before the final at Wimbledon since 2002.  Berdych plays an effortless, clean game that can't be easily broken down.  But Djokovic doesn't have the weaker backhand like Federer's for Berdych to pick on, and Berdych did not taken a set off of him in either of their previous meetings.

In a lot of ways, Djokovic is even less expected to be here than Berdych.  Whereas the only obstacle (albeit a major one) in Berdych's path to the semis was Federer, Djokovic was in a loaded section of the draw that included Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick.  Furthermore, Djokovic has always had his worst results on grass, and had only made the Wimbledon semifinals once before.  Unlike anyone he's played so far at this tournament, Berdych is an opponent who could easily hit Djokovic off the court if he gets into a rhythm.

Djokovic hasn't made a grand slam final since winning the 2008 Australian Open, and would be considered an underdog against either Nadal or Murray.  But given his lack of results since last getting a taste, I'm pretty sure he would be more than thrilled to walk away from SW19 with a runner-up plate.

Prediction: Djokovic in 4.

No. 4 Andy Murray (GBR) vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal (ESP) -- Some four days after England's exit from the World Cup, the British public and media seems to be just now realizing that this may be the closest they've come to a British champion at Wimbledon in a long time.  Without Federer or Roddick in the draw, Andy Murray's path to the Wimbledon title has never looked clearer.  He does face two tremendous hurdles before he gets to lift the trophy, though, the first of which comes Thursday against No. 2 Rafael Nadal.

Nadal beat Murray in straight sets at the 2008 Wimbledon quarterfinals, their only previous meeting on grass, improving his head-to-head with Murray to 5-0 at that point.  But Murray has won three of their last five meetings, including earlier this year in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

Whereas all his previous opponents have generated enough power to allow him to counter-punch, Nadal is really going to have to dictate the action against Murray if he wants to win this match.  He's been hitting plenty of winners in his last couple rounds, so it shouldn't be an issue.  But his return and approach shots are going to be coming back better than they have so far, so he'll really need to be at the top of his game if he's going to beat Murray.

Murray, too, has to make sure he doesn't play too passively.  He often gets lulled into playing extremely defensive tennis, and like the type he played in losing the first set of his quarterfinal to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The urgency of this opportunity and the crowd should be enough to keep him energetic and forceful, but if he slips Nadal should be able to take advantage.

Prediction: Murray in 5.