The stage is set for a thrilling climax at this year’s Wimbledon, though whether it can live up to the thrilling two days of quarterfinals action remains to be seen. One of the most unpredictable women’s tournaments in recent history brought yet more drama and excitement. The men, meanwhile, treated fans to two instant classics. Champions fell, stars rose and names were made, but what did we learn?
Nadal fells the Tower of Tandil in epic
When Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro took to the court expectations were high. The two men had been playing excellent tennis all season and are both equipped with the sort of weaponry that most could only dream of. And whilst Nadal had dismantled the Argentine at Roland Garros, on the fast-playing, high-bouncing Wimbledon courts things were expected to be different. So they were, though the result, in the end, was the same.
From the outset both men made their intentions clear, going at each other hammer-and-tongs. For hours they strove with each other, the match swinging one way and then the other. Nadal took the first set and had points to take the second only to falter and hand the impetus to del Potro. He took it, levelling the match and winning the third to take the lead. Nadal then roared back himself to win the fourth and sent the match, quite fittingly, to a decider.
There the tennis somehow grew even better despite both men looking increasingly weary. Nadal struck first, breaking the del Potro serve in the fifth game of the set. But the match was far from over. Indeed, any lesser man would have surely folded before the almighty onslaught del Potro threw at Nadal to try and recover the break. But time and again the Spaniard withstood him, as both abandoned any caution to stand and slug it out toe-to-toe.
Until at last, on match point, as Nadal sent a volley into the open court, del Potro’s footing betrayed him as he scrambled to reach it, to fight on, to ask Nadal one last question. Instead he fell and at last found he could rise no more.
Djokovic back in business
Long have tennis fans, pundits and players wondered when, indeed if, the Djokovic of old would return. The man himself looked to be searching for those same answers. He at last provided them definitively by overcoming the spirited resistance of Nishikori. Djokovic took the first set, and may feel he should have won the second as well, but frustration got the better of him, not for the first time of late, and Nishikori was allowed back into the contest.
In the crucial third set it was Nishikori who made the first move, forcing three break points at 2-2. He was soon made to regret it. For Djokovic met his challenge head on. Suddenly the fire within was alight once more and his game responded. He took the best Nishikori could throw at him unblinkingly and hit back with accuracy and venom. Pulled from pillar to post, his serves coming back with more interest than he had sent them with, Nishikori could do nothing but hope the storm subside.
It did not. Djokovic ran away with the second set, winning four games on the bounce to retake the lead. Nishikori broke early in the fourth, but it seemed more like the last stand of a doomed man determined to go down swinging than a turning point in the match. So it proved as Djokovic erased the break at the first time of asking and then twice more broke the Nishikori serve to end the match and reach his first Major semifinal since 2016 a 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2 winner.
For Federer, close but no cigar
Federer looked to be on course for the comfortable victory that most had predicted when he forced a match point on Kevin Anderson’s serve up 6-2 7-6 5-4. Such an end had seemed inevitable from the moment that an Anderson forehand flew long to hand Federer the second set. Not since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011 had anyone overturned such a deficit against Federer at Wimbledon, and for all his quality and work-ethic, Anderson seemed a far cry from Tsonga.
A big serve, followed by a big forehand and a framed Federer backhand were enough to keep Anderson alive, but it seemed only a matter of time before Federer settled the contest. Instead, Anderson held, broke and then held again to take a set that had looked Federer’s for the taking. He broke again midway through the fourth to claim that one as well. In the face of a rejuvenated Anderson hammering away aces and winners with ease, Federer’s match point seemed a distant memory.
Federer raised his level in the decider, and pressed more than once for a break, coming closest up 4-3. But again and again Anderson landed blows heavy enough to fend off the great man. And as the match ticked over into a fifth hour, it was Federer who began to tire most visibly. At 11-11, with his legs looking leaden, Federer’s resistance crumbled, with a double fault and a handful of errors handing Anderson a break. He served it out emphatically to complete the most stunning upset yet in SW19.
Serena still on course for number eight
Whilst Wimbledon’s king fell, its Queen only stumbled a little. Serena Williams has seen the draw open up to an astonishing degree with every top ten seed falling before the quarterfinals. Of course, that does not yet guarantee her the title. Indeed, Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko, who will contest the other semifinal are both Major champions themselves. And Williams’ own semifinal opponent, Julia Goerges, has been looking dangerous herself.
But there has been something about the way Williams has been playing so far this Championships that suggests she is ready to claim a triumph that is somehow both remarkable and expected at once. Remarkable because she is ranked 181st in the world and had played just seven Tour-level matches since January last year when she arrived at the All England Club. Expected because, well, she is still Serena Williams.
But she was given a serious examination of her title credentials by Camila Giorgi of Italy, who was making her debut in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Indeed, it was the Italian who took the first set and looked to be seriously threatening the upset. But Williams’ greater power eventually told as Giorgi’s attempts to match it led her to misfire and Williams claimed the win in three. Make no mistake, there are tests to come for Williams. But would you really want to bet against her?
What was your favourite moment of the Wimbledon quarterfinals? Let us know in the comments below!