— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 13, 2017
Roger Federer is a 7-time Wimbledon champion and 3-time Wimbledon runner-up. He also won a silver medal on these grounds and has won 9 Halle titles. As the most decorated grass court champion in decades (Sampras and he can debate about the best if they care to do so), is Federer going to coast to his 8th Wimbledon title and 17th title on grass?
He is the favorite of the remaining 4 players. No one should be mistaken about that. Still, Tomas Berdych, his semifinal opponent, beat him in the quarterfinal round of Wimbledon 2010. Berdych also beat Federer in the 2012 US Open quarterfinal round. Marin Cilic won the 2014 US Open and beat Federer in straight sets in the semifinal round. Cilic was runner-up at Queen’s Club in 2017 and had match points versus Federer at the 2016 Wimbledon Championships. Sam Querrey beat Novak Djokovic at Wimbledomn 2016 when Novak was the reigning champion at all 4 majors (!). He beat Andy Murray as the defending champion from 1 set down and 2 sets to 1 down in front of a partisan crowd. Querrey can win big matches at Wimbledon and took home the big trophy at Queen’s Club earlier in his career. Federer will be the least tall and have the least natural leverage on his serve no matter how many matches he plays this final weekend. Reasons exist for seeing other possibilities.
The Biggest Challenge for Federer is the Sense of Opportunity
One of the hardest things for players outside of the Big 4 in this era is the sense of needing to win 2 or 3 epic matches to take a big title. Juan Martin del Potro was able to do this in 2009 downing Nadal and Federer in back-to-back matches to take the US Open. Stan Wawrinka has beaten multiple members of the big 4 in his 2014 Australian Open and his 2015 French Open triumphs. This is a GOLDEN opportunity for any talented player feeling he will only need 1 big win in the final weekend to claim an unexpected major.
- Berdych came up 3 sets short of winning Wimbledon in 2010 after downing Federer and Djokovic in succession. Rafa Nadal stopped him. That is not the scenario facing Berdych. Mentally, he might think, “I can beat Querrey or Cilic, and I’ve beaten Federer at majors before so this is my time.”
- Cilic has to feel he can beat Querrey. He ragdolled Federer at the 2014 US Open and did much of the same thing for 2.9 sets last year at Wimbledon. He has to feel he can beat Berdych if Berdych beats Federer.
- Querrey has been a miracle man at the past two Wimbledons. He has to be thinking he can pull an upset of Cilic and then pull one more upset. He could then improbably end the US male Grand Slam singles drought.
Each of these guys has to believe that a plausible path for winning 6 more sets and the most coveted prize in tennis is possible. Opportunity plus belief can lead to inspired play even if it sounds like the caption to a cheesy motivational poster.
To Be Clear – Federer is the Favorite
If Federer rides a friendly crowd and claims early leads, he can snuff out a sense of belief and stem the tide of upset minded opposition. Federer also has 3 out of 5 sets to figure things out and to rally if he falls behind. Federer is favored versus Berdych and would be favored versus either Querrey or Cilic. Therefore, he is the odds on favorite with 3 other interesting contgenders left in the field. We should have 3 more fun men’s matches.