Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer may have bowed out at a stunningly early stage but Wimbledon can look forward with anticipation to two captivating semifinals on Friday. The first of the last-four matchups is a real heavyweight duel as top seed Novak Djokovic takes on a player in Juan Martine del Potro who has been as impressive as anyone thus far in the tournament.
The 2009 US Open champion has yet to lose a set and in the last round appeared to be in danger of withdrawing with a knee injury before battering the resilient fourth seed David Ferrer off the court in stunning fashion. Perhaps because of the injury, Del Potro has been letting loose with his groundstrokes off both wings and once again showing that few can even contend with the big Argentinean’s phenomenal power off both wings when in full flight.
And that is why his matchup with perhaps the best defender in the game is so intriguing. Del Potro will hope to be at full fitness, but the bigger key could be his ability to keep the same positive attitude. Do that and he can certainly pose the 2011 Wimbledon champion a severe test of his credentials. Djokovic has had the better of the pair’s head-to-heads, but Del Potro won their last meeting and came out on top to claim the bronze medal at the All England Club in last year’s Olympics.
On paper, the day’s second semifinal should be more straightforward, but it would be dangerous to underestimate Jerzy Janowicz when he goes up against home favorite Andy Murray. Janowicz has taken full advantage of Nadal and Federer’s exit and won an emotional quarterfinal against fellow Pole Lukasz Kubot to book a place in his first Grand Slam semifinal. The 22-year-old has been touted as a potential star, though, since reaching the final of last year’s Paris Masters, when he beat Murray along the way. It has been a meteoric rise for the man who only made his Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at Wimbledon last year.
Murray will certainly be fully aware of Janowicz’s booming serve and groundstrokes and will know that he will have to return better than he did in the opening two sets of his dramatic five-set quarterfinal win against Fernando Verdasco. But the second seed showed great character in that comeback and continues to demonstrate that the incredible pressure to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 somehow does not hinder his game. However, if Janowicz can deal with his own pressure on the big occasion there may be a few more nerves for those in attendance on Centre Court on Friday.
Where to watch: The men’s semifinals will begin at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on ESPN3.