Both came through their quarterfinals with a degree of comfort on Wednesday, but Roger Federer and Andy Murray know they can expect a much sterner test when going head-to-head in Wimbledon’s final four. Federer had little problem in easing past Gilles Simon, while Murray was given only a little more trouble in ousting Vasek Pospisil, also in straight sets. With both performing at an extremely high level over the past 10 days at the All England Club, the semifinal that has been hotly anticipated since the draw was made promises to match expectations.
Certainly it would be a major surprise were it to be as one-sided a contest as when they last met. At the end of last year, also in London, Murray won just a single game in a humbling loss to Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals. The result completed a clean sweep for Federer against Murray in 2014. But his play at Wimbledon has only reinforced that the Scot is a very different player right now.
Still suffering the effects of back surgery and a change in coach for much of last year, Murray struggled to recapture the form that saw him win Wimbledon in 2013. But now fully healthy and with coach Amelie Mauresmo making her influence felt, Murray has only been bettered by Djokovic so far in 2015, losing to the world No. 1 in both the final of the Australian open and semifinals of the French Open.
His overall record with Federer sees him trail 12-11, but the 28-year-old has generally matched up well with the man who has won more Grand Slams than any other since his early days on the circuit. At the All England Club, he has experienced the full range of emotions against Federer. In the 2012 final he was left in tears after Federer prolonged Murray’s wait for a Major title, but just a month later he was triumphant on the same Centre Court to win Olympic Gold.
For the 33-year-old Federer, the overwhelming motivation is to ensure that the Wimbledon victory three years ago will not be the last time he tastes Grand Slam glory. An unprecedented 18th Major title has thus far eluded him, most gallingly at Wimbledon 12 months ago when he lost a thrilling five-set final to Novak Djokovic. The Serbian, who takes on Richard Gasquet in the first semifinal, could once again lie in wait, but first Federer will have to take his Grand Slam record against Murray to 5-1.
So far he has looked serene back at a venue where he has won a record-equaling seven titles. In five matches, Federer has dropped just one set and it wasn’t until the second set of his quarterfinal with Simon that he had his serve broken for the first time. At an age where the vast majority of tennis players are either in sharp decline or have already hung up their racket, Federer continues to show he can mix it with the very best. Now he just has to show that he can maintain that high level for the duration of a two week Grand Slam, something which certainly won’t be harmed by his routine progress to the semifinals.
Prediction: Federer has been serving outstandingly through this grass-court season, but he’s yet to meet a returner as proficient as Murray. The No. 3 has been further aided by Jonas Bjorkman, a great returner in his day, coming on board alongside Mauresomo. More than just the return, the overall difference in Murray is huge from this time last year, when he crashed out in the quarterfinals to Grigor Dimitrov. All seems well in his world, both mentally and physically, and, if he can avoid the temporary mental lapses occasionally evident in this year’s Championships and keep Federer at bay with his second serve, then he has every chance to get back to the final. It has the potential to be a thrilling contest, with Federer also playing superbly, but Murray’s staying power could see him just edge it in five sets.
Betting Odds (Bovada.lv): Murray is a slight favorite at 5/6, with a Federer win available at evens.
Schedule: The men’s semifinals will take place on Thursday, beginning at 8 a.m. EDT. The lineup will be confirmed later on Wednesday, but it is highly likely to be Federer and Murray second on court, following Djokovic and Gasquet.