The Wimbledon 2016 men’s semifinals will feature four talented players (Roger Federer, Milos Raonic, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych), all who have had very different careers up until now. In one semifinal, Roger Federer will face Milos Raonic while Andy Murray will face Tomas Berdych in the other. With each player, there are questions surrounding them that promise to be answered on Friday, with the Raonic/Federer match the more mysterious of the two.
With Federer, the question is if he is still a contender to win majors at this late point of his career. Some might state that since he’s in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, he’s clearly a contender still. However, given the vast difference between early/mid-round talent and late-round talent, I think the truth is that the first five matches combined of a Grand Slam are generally easier to win than the last two combined.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old Swiss player has had an injury-plagued season that is unlike any other season from his past. He missed the French Open outright and his grass-court tournaments heading into Wimbledon both ended in semifinal losses. Beating Marin Cilic in the quarters is a major season highlight, yet Cilic himself has been somewhat off for a while now. In drawing a player ten years younger, that is playing the best tennis of his life, the question with Federer is as follows: does he still have what it takes to make the 1990s-born players wait or will players like Raonic now start to reach the biggest matches through Federer?
With Raonic, I think there are a couple of questions for him, neither of which has to do with confidence. The Canadian has had marked improvements from that point of view since the start of the season, confidence that culminated in his near victory over Andy Murray in the 2016 Australian Open semifinals.
But one question is how is his body going to hold up in the late rounds? Raonic is 6’5″ and he has faced a couple of strong tests in the last two rounds. You don’t just lumber around with his size for five rounds of best-of-five-set tennis and then wake up feeling perfect for the semifinals. In fact at the Aussie, Raonic had 2 sets to 1 lead over Murray in the semis before fitness problems slowed him down. Is he into the Wimbledon semis able and ready to win? Or is something going to show up in the match that Federer will exploit?
Another question is simply if Raonic is good enough to win a match of this magnitude against a higher-ranked player. The Canadian has survived a section of the draw that had Novak Djovokic in it. However, Raonic did not have to take the Serb out of the draw himself. Sam Querrey did the dirty work and then Djokovic, quite credibly, alluded to an injury afterward. Raonic, who has never beaten a Big-Four player in a major, is still just 2-9 against Federer heads up. That has to call the Canadian’s ceiling into question – maybe a semifinal of a Grand Slam is as high as it goes?
In the other semifinal, the questions certainly aren’t as begging. Both players are well established for this point of a major, even Berdych, who is now into his 6th career Grand Slam semifinal. The only semifinal he won was at Wimbledon, six years ago to the round, where he beat Djokovic in 2010 just prior to the Serb’s ascension to the top of tennis.
But since Berdych is 30, he’s not the mystery that Raonic presents. With Berdych, there is a question of whether he can finally start closing tournaments out, but it just isn’t a big head scratcher since we’ve seen so much of him over the last seven years. If the Murray match gets competitive, then the World No. 2 will have the higher gear to go into just as the Scot had that against Berdych in the semifinals of both the 2015 Aussie and the 2012 US Open.
The 2016 Wimbledon final is looking like Andy Murray vs. To-be-determined. I think the Scot has a much better chance against Raonic in the final than Federer, however regardless I think it will take a shocking upset to see Murray not win the Wimbledon title now.