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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Wimbledon semifinals: Djokovic vs. Shapovalov

By Ricky Dimon

Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon?

Probably not, but Denis Shapovalov may have as good of a shot as anyone.

It will be Djokovic vs. Shapovalov in the semifinals on Friday afternoon at the All-England Club and they took much different paths to reach this stage. Djokovic has won 15 sets in a row since losing his first of the tournament, while Shapovalov has survived a pair of five-setters.

That being said, Shapovalov has been playing his best tennis of the season–by far–at the All-England Club. Requiring five sets against Philipp Kohlschreiber in round one was a bit alarming, but getting a walkover from Pablo Andujar immediately thereafter appears to have been just what the doctor ordered for the 22-year-old Canadian. He followed that up with straight-set beatdowns of Andy Murray and Roberto Bautista Agut before battling past Karen Khachanov 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

“I’ve seen him play against Murray,” Djokovic noted. “He’s really feeling great. Probably the ball gets to him on grass; it doesn’t bounce as much, so he can swing through the ball. I think (his) backhand was also working really well (from) what I saw [against Khachanov] in some important moments. I’m sure that that’s going to be the biggest test I will have so far in the tournament, which is also expected; it’s (the) semifinals. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a battle and I need to be at my best.”

His best is exactly where Djokovic has been in Grand Slams this year. Throwing pretty much all of his focus behind only the biggest events at this point in his career, the top-ranked Serb triumphed at both the Australian Open and French Open. As expected, Wimbledon has been even easier for him so far. He has won 15 sets in a row while blowing past Jack Draper, Kevin Anderson, Denis Kudla, Cristian Garin, and Marton Fucsovics.

“Obviously he’s the best player in the world, but I think anything is possible,” Shapovalov said. “When you look at the scoreboard the first thing on Friday, it’s going to be 0-0. So that’s it. It’s a tennis match; it could go either way.”

While the “it could go either way” comment is somewhat of a stretch, Shapovalov is one of the few players on tour who really does bring some belief to the court even when he is a heavy underdog. Although the world No. 12 is 0-6 lifetime against Djokovic, he forced a final-set tiebreaker at the 2020 ATP Cup and lost 7-5, 7-5 in a high-quality contest earlier this year–also at the ATP Cup.

Four factors can make Friday’s showdown at least somewhat competitive: Shapovalov’s current form, his belief, a grass-court surface that naturally levels the playing field of many matchups, and the fact that Djokovic has not been tested at all going into the semis.

Of course, it rarely ends well for the opponent when Djokovic does get tested (just ask Lorenzo Musetti, Matteo Berrettini, Rafael Nadal, and Stefanos Tsitsipas about their French Open losses, and Draper after he took a set in the Wimbledon first round). This should be a fun one for a while, but count on the top seed getting the job done without too much trouble.

Pick: Djokovic in 4

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