Wimbledon semifinal preview: Djokovic-Federer, Murray-Tsonga

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With 11 days of Wimbledon behind us, four of the world’s top five players stand just one victory away from a spot in the final.  While Rafael Nadal’s absence will make the winner of the Novak Djokovic-Roger Federer matchup the likely championship favorite, either Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will also capitalize on the Spaniard’s early exit by sneaking into his first Wimbledon final.  Let’s take a closer look at what to expect in these two highly competitive matchups.

Djokovic-Federer

The world’s top player hasn’t had quite the blistering start to 2012 that he did to 2011, having won just two titles in eight tournaments after winning the first seven and nine of the first 10 in 2011.  But that doesn’t make the task of beating him any less daunting.  Djokovic has set Wimbledon’s grassy courts on fire thus far, dropping just one set in five matches without having faced a single tiebreaker.  And not only is he the reigning champion, but he’s won the last four Grand Slams played outside of Roland Garros and has taken six of the last seven matches against Federer.

All that said, can we really count out the Swiss star?  After all, he stopped the red-hot Serbian’s 43-match win streak in the 2011 French Open semifinals before nearly toppling him in the US Open semis, winning the first two sets before losing in five.  And though Federer dropped the first two sets before rallying in Wimbledon’s third round this year, he’s lost just one other set this tournament after ripping through Mikhail Youzhny (6-1, 6-2, 6-2) in the quarterfinals.

Making things even more interesting, this will be Federer and Djokovic’s first meeting on grass, where the former has always thrived.  It took Nadal three attempts to conquer Federer at Wimbledon; even with Federer on the back end of his career, it won’t be easy for Djokovic to do so in his first attempt.

So while Djokovic has dominated the most recent clashes between these two men, Friday’s semifinal will be far from a cake walk.  Though Djokovic may come out storming and move on in three or four sets, don’t be surprised if Federer stymies the world’s No. 1 player and earns himself a shot at a record-tying seventh Wimbledon title.

Murray-Tsonga

Though this matchup may lack the firepower of the first, it could very well be more intriguing.  Thanks to Nadal’s shocking loss in the second round, the door is legitimately open for Murray to become the first British player to reach a Wimbledon final since 1938, the second year the tournament was  televised.  Across from the overwhelming crowd favorite stands the fifth-seeded Tsonga, who is playing in his second Wimbledon semifinal but has reached one career Grand Slam final, at the Australian Open in 2008.

British fans will certainly feel confident in their star; Murray holds a 5-1 career record (2-0 on grass) against the Frenchman, having won four straight and only losing at the start of Tsonga’s run to the Australian final in 2008.

Still, those who have already penciled Murray into the final should be wary.  The last time the British star was favored to finally reach a Wimbledon final, Murray drew the sixth-seeded Andy Roddick in 2009—again, in the absence of Nadal.  Despite entering with a 6-2 career record (1-0 on grass) and three consecutive victories against Roddick, Murray fell in four sets.  Like Roddick, Tsonga is no slouch, having taken down Federer in last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champion, Djokovic in the semis.

Is it finally the year that a British man reaches the final of England’s storied tournament?  Though the odds are in Murray’s favor, a victory over Tsonga is far from a foregone conclusion.

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