One story line developed nicely Wednesday for the upcoming Wimbledon men’s semifinals. Another one fell apart.
A Roger Federer-Andy Murray matchup brings a tingle of excitement here, for various reasons, and that came to pass rather predictably. Federer beat Gilles Simon in their quarterfinal, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2, and Murray beat unseeded and likely exhausted Vasek Pospisil of Canada, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
Federer had a 6-2 record against the Frenchman Simon, but had won the last six and hadn’t lost to him since 2008. Murray beat Pospisil for the fourth time without a loss. Pospisil, who had played a total of 31 sets in singles and doubles coming into the Murray match, could finally rest.
Wimbledon fans embrace Federer, who has won a record 17 major titles and can set another record if he wins an eighth Wimbledon. The only player more popular at Wimbledon than Federer is native son Murray of Scotland.
Also, fans need only to look back as far as 2012 to grasp the possible theater Federer and Murray can present. In that Olympic year, Federer beat Murray in the Wimbledon final and then lost to him in the gold-medal match of the London Olympics on the same grass court.
In the Olympics, Federer survived a lengthy semifinal against Juan Martin Del Potro and then faced a rested and inspired Murray in the final.
“I thought Andy played as good a final as you can play,” Federer said Wednesday.
Wednesday’s other match had the makings of a nice drama replay too, and it got halfway there, when No. 1 Novak Djokovic took out reigning U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. At the same point of last year’s Wimbledon, Djokovic needed to survive a five-set battle with Cilic, but not this time.
Djokovic’s victory could have set up a nice rematch against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka. It was Wawrinka who won the French Open title this year, beating Djokovic in the final and depriving the Serbian star of completing a career Grand Slam — at least one title in each of the majors.
Wawrinka didn’t get there, losing a five-set thriller to a resurgent Richard Gasquet, a 29-year-old Frenchman, who has always been one of the more gifted players on the tour but also one of the more inconsistent. He made the semifinals here in 2007, but his ranking has wandered from No. 8 to No. 52 since.
The scores of Gasquet’s upset of No. 4-seeded Wawrinka, in 3 hours 28 minutes, were 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9. Gasquet was up a break in the fifth set at 5-3, but he played a loose game and had to recover from that.
“Richard is in the semis for a reason,” said Djokovic, when asked if he might be relieved to not be facing Wawrinka again. “He has always had the touch, but I am told he has now worked hard on his fitness.”
Thursday’s women’s semifinals can reasonably be described as a feature and a semi-main event.
There is no denying the difference in star appeal between Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska against Garbine Muguruza.
Williams is seeded No. 1 and Sharapova No. 4, and the record of each speaks to their attraction for tennis fans.
Williams has won 20 major titles, including each major at least once. Sharapova has won five majors, and also at least one of each.
In their head-to-heads, Williams leads by an almost unbelievable 17-2 margin. The last time Sharapova beat her was in the 2004 Tour Championship. Sharapova beat Williams on the grass here once. That was the 2004 title match.
When second-seed Petra Kvitova, the defending champion, and No. 3 Simona Halep lost early, the bottom half of the bracket opened up and Radwanska of Poland and Muguruza of Spain took advantage. They have split four matches, but the 13th-seeded Radwanska would be considered the favorite, based on her advances here to the 2012 final and the 2013 semifinals.
Saturday’s men’s doubles final might be missing the flair and drama of last year’s matchup between Camarillo’s Bryan brothers and Jack Sock and Pospisil. That had a full house on Centre Court rocking until Sock finished it with a huge forehand for 7-5 in the fifth set.
But the Bryan twins, winners of 16 major titles and still going strong at age 37, were ousted in the quarterfinals late Tuesday, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (4), by Rohan Bopanna of India and Florin Mergea of Romania.