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Ricky’s Picks For The Wimbledon Semifinals: Nadal vs. Djokovic & Anderson vs. Isner

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during their mens quarter final match at the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 11 July 2018  EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL



Ricky’s picks for the Wimbledon semifinals: Nadal vs. Djokovic and Anderson vs. Isner


By Ricky Dimon


It is a tale of two much different semifinals at Wimbledon on Friday. One should be a baseline slugfest between two all-time greats and former champions at the All-England Club. The other is a surprising showdown between Kevin Anderson and John Isner in what will surely be a huge-serving affair.


Ricky previews the action and makes his predictions.


(12) Novak Djokovic vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Djokovic will be squaring off for a hard-to-believe 52nd time in their careers, with Djokovic holding a lead so slim (26-25) that it will be all tied if he loses. Nadal had dropped seven straight and 11 of their last 12 encounters before taking their two most recent encounters, also in semifinals (6-2, 6-4 last spring in Madrid and 7-6(4), 6-3 a couple of months ago in Rome). They have not met on grass since the 2011 Wimbledon title match, in which Djokovic triumphed 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.


Surprisingly, Nadal had not been back to even the quarterfinals of this event since that 2011 runner-up performance. But it has all turned around for second-seeded Spaniard this fortnight, with straight-set romps over Dudi Sela, Mikhail Kukushkin, Alex De Minaur, and Jiri Vesely prior to an epic 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarters. Nadal is now an outstanding 35-2 for the year and 31-1 in his last 32 matches since retiring against Marin Cilic in the Aussie Open quarterterfinals.


While Nadal has turned things around on grass, Djokovic’s all-around game is improving to a significant extent for the first time in a year. Injuries derailed the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 for him, but the Djokovic of old has returned. The 12-time major winner gained some momentum on clay and has only improved on grass, with a runner-up performance at Queen’s Club and victories over Tennys Sandgren, Horacio Zeballos, Kyle Edmund, Karen Khachanov, and Kei Nishikori.


While this Djokovic is something different than what was on display from January through April, his sample size of success is still small. The 21st-ranked Serb owns just a single top-10 scalp since Rome last spring, and that has come at the expense of a slumping Grigor Dimitrov in the Queen’s Club second round. Taking down Nadal in the Wimbledon semis is a whole different beast of a task.

Pick: Nadal in 4


(8) Kevin Anderson vs. (9) John Isner

John Isner of the US serves to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in their fourth round match during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 09 July 2018. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

These two veterans and former NCAA rivals have faced each other 11 times, with Isner leading the head-to-head series 8-3. It was once 3-3 before Isner won five in a row, including two during this stretch that featured tiebreakers only–7-6(3), 6-7(8), 7-6(7) at the 2012 Shanghai Masters and 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 7-6(2) in the 2013 Atlanta title match.


Something similar was expected when Isner collided with Milos Raonic on Wednesday, and that is how things went through two sets. But the 6’10” American eventually took control and prevailed 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-3. In what is by far his best-ever performance in SW19, Isner preceded his defeat of Raonic with victories over Yannick Maden, Ruben Bemelmans, Radu Albot, and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The world No. 10 has not been broken a single time through five rounds, but he did have to save two match points from 15-40 down at 4-5 in his fifth set against Bemelmans.


Anderson had also never reached the quarters at the AELTC, but he advanced to the second week three times in his previous four trips and he has not lost in less than five sets at this tournament since 2014 (to Andy Murray). So the No. 8 seed’s showing comes as no real surprise–at least no real surprise until Wednesday. Following wins over Norbert Gombos, Andreas Seppi, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Gael Monfils, Anderson fought off one match point and shocked Federer 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11. Paling only in comparison to Isner, the 32-year-old has blasted 124 aces in five matches–at least 20 in every contest.


Isner has made at least 69 percent of his first serves during every match of this fortnight. The pressure will be on Anderson to hold every time he toes the line–something he failed to do four times against Monfils and three times against Federer.

Pick: Isner in 4


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.


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