I haven't been able to watch any Wimbledon because I actually have a job, and those darned Brits refuse to schedule the matches around my work shift. Nevertheless, today's results have brought some exciting numbers. The men's quarterfinals included five Grand Slam champions, four former World No. 1s, and four players older than Roger Federer.
With 2008 champion and current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal unable to defend his title, Federer became the odds-on favorite to win it all, Andy Murray (3) and Novak Djokovic (4) being the major obstacles standing in the way of him claiming a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title. Some enthusiasts, however, may have been hoping that fan favorite Marat Safin, having declared this his final year on tour, would pull off the Cinderella story following his impressive performance last year. That didn't happen--Safin lost in the first round--but we did get glimmers of former excellence from Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Carlos Ferrero, each coming in unseeded and playing their best tennis in years. Wild card Ferrero beat some top ten players (Fernando Gonzalez (10) and Gilles Simon (7)) before falling in straight sets to Murray. As for Hewitt, it's appropriate that, after having knocked off rising star Juan Martin Del Potro (5), he would lose finally to old rival Andy Roddick, whom he used to regularly terrorize, and nearly did so again today before losing in an epic five sets. For Roddick, a year younger than Hewitt, this may well be his last, best chance to win Wimbledon (or any other major again).
Meanwhile, the oldest player still in the tournament, Tommy Haas (24th seed, despite being ranked outside the top 32) managed to upset Djokovic for a spot in the semifinal against Federer, for whom Haas has been a legitimate threat in the past, including as recently as the French Open, where Federer was forced to come back from two sets-to-love. In his prime, Tommy Haas looked like he had game enough to match the Hewitts and Gustavo Kuertens of the world, but, when it counted, he never did. Then Roger Federer arrived. With today's victory, the man has now made it to twenty-one straight Grand Slam semifinals, losing only three of those to the eventual champions. In other words, since Wimbledon 2004, nobody has won a major without having to go through Federer.
Roger Federer, only two victories away from standing alone as "the greatest," remains the favorite, but there is much at stake to drive the other three semifinalists as well. Before a partisan UK crowd that has been starving for Wimbledon's first native champion since Fred Perry in 1936, the burden of history is no less heavy on Andy Murray. But he has winning records against all the remaining players, and he may be due for his first major championship. Roddick would, at the very least, like to take things back to 2005, when he was Federer's would-be rival. For Haas, at age 31, the end is surely approaching, but even now, if he can keep his emotions in check, he should be capable of beating any of the other men. However things turn out, the next few days should provide some exciting matches.
I would love to see a Federer-Roddick final with Roddick bringing his best ever game to bear. Granted, he would still lose, but I'd like to see him press Roger to the limit just once in his life. (And no, Kooyong does not count.)
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