By David de Winter – Sports Editor
It’s the business end of Wimbledon and the men’s semi-finals has thrown together some intriguing match-ups. Andy Murray will take on all-time great Roger Federer whilst sinewy Serb Novak Djokovic will be up against enigmatic Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Two completely contrasting styles of play will be on display tomorrow – classic grass-court tennis against the modern baseline counter-puncher and it will be fascinating to see who prevails.
Federer is the king of the grass court. His aggressive style of play suits the Wimbledon turf perfectly. He is serving exceptionally at the moment and he is probably still the best volleyer in the game. But the likes of Federer are a dying breed. The days of the single-handed backhand, serve-volleying and the chip and charge are numbered – which was why it was so refreshing to watch the titanic battle between Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka.
I expected Wawrinka’s relentless bludgeoning style to overpower Gasquet but the Frenchman’s amazing shot-making ability, balletic movement and artistic single-handed backhand (swoon) prevailed. I have a slightly unhealthy man crush on Richard Gasquet (watch this: his backhand is the equal of Federer’s, possibly superior) and watching his old school approach to conquering Wawrinka with sliced backhands, deft volleys and aggressive net play was a masterclass in brain over brawn. Novak Djokovic will be an even more daunting prospect and whilst I expect the defending champion to prevail, he will undergo a thorough and unorthodox examination on Centre Court tomorrow against Gasquet.
What about Andy Murray? He is up against a rampant Roger Federer who has been scarily good all tournament, looking nigh-on impregnable. He has only dropped one set so far (a tie-break) and he desperately wants to beat Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon titles. Murray’s defence will have to be top notch because Federer will come out all-guns blazing. The key could be Murray’s serve. If the Scotsman can get his first serve percentage into the seventies he can then concentrate on dismantling Federer’s service games.
Whilst I am obviously patriotic and would dearly love Murray to win another Wimbledon, a part of me wouldn’t necessarily be too disappointed if Federer were to win and reach another final. He is in the twilight of his career but he still makes tennis seem like an art form and the opportunity to watch such a glorious player strut his stuff is not to be missed. He is in excellent form and, at his best, no-one is a match for Roger Federer. In all likelihood the winner will play Novak Djokovic but I would urge you to watch Gasquet tomorrow. He may not win but his graceful backhand is worth the licence fee alone. A Federer v Gasquet final may be a pipe dream but I am living in hope.