Friday, July 6, 2012

Wimbledon Finals All Set

The Men's Final
So what’s the lesson from the men’s semis? Bring a big serve to Wimbledon. Roger Federer was impeccable on serve, but for one game in the second set. Andy Murray served his way out of trouble at 5-5 in the fourth set from 15-40 down, and the rest is history.

Key Stats From Federer-Djokovic
Serves aside, the key stat from the Federer-Djokovic match was the 75% and 72% of points Federer won on his first and second serve. Djokovic had a healthy 71% on first serve, but only 57% on second serve. Ordinarily, that’s good enough, but not with Federer returning as well as he has in some time, particularly on the backhand side where he came over the backhand more than usual.

Perhaps the most surprising stat in the Federer-Djokovic match was the disparity in the players’ efficiency rating. Roger ended up with a plus-21 rating with 31 winners to 10 unforced errors. Huh? Roger with only 10 unforced errors in a match? Djokovic on the other hand, was a mere plus-seven, with 28 and 21 winners and unforced errors respectively.

Still, a point of concern for Federer fans should be his break percentage on return, which was a paltry three of 11 for 27%. Fortunately, he only gave Novak three attempts to break his own serve and Novak converted on just one.  Federer will have to play as clean a game on Sunday and hope for some Novak-like struggles from Murray to claim his record-tying seventh Wimbledon Singles Championship.

Is Murray Ready?
Well, I’m almost ready to concede that Murray has finally arrived. He has played back-to-back tremendous matches, playing as offensively as I’ve ever seen him, and defending as well as he normally does. He’s not making nearly as many questionable strategic plays as usual, and he’s hanging tough at crunch time. Ivan Lendl (Murray's relatively new coach) is looking for a raise after this performance from Murray.

Murray is a tough out for anyone when he’s playing to his potential, because he has one of the best serves in the game and is one of the game’s better returners. In the match against Tsonga, Murray won 75% of points on his first serve and a very solid 64% on second serve. With Tsonga serving at 122mph and 97mph on first and second serves respectively, Murray still managed to win a total of 41% overall and a whopping 68% of points on Tsonga’s second serve.

If you thought Roger’s efficiency rating was nice, and it was, Murray’s plus-28 (40 winners, 12 unforced errors) was “redonkulous” as the Curr Dawg might say. With Murray serving and receiving as he is, hitting plenty of winners and making very few errors, Roger has his work cut out for him.  

Come Ready!
One more lesson from the Men’s Semis?  Come ready to play from the opening gun. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga didn’t look as though he came to play until the third set, and by then Andy was pretty comfortable. Novak brought his serve early, but not much else, and he paid the price for it. If they both bring their A-games and the nerves don’t dominate either with so much at stake, Murray would have the edge with his return game. We’ll see on Sunday. The moment may just be too much for the Brit.

The Ladies' Final
Just about everyone is ready to concede the Ladies Final to Serena Williams over Agnieszka Radwanska, and that may just be where the trouble lies. Serena knows that she’s supposed to blow Aga off the court, and so does Aga. We saw what happened to Serena against an opponent she was supposed to crush in the first Round of the French. Didn’t quite go according to the script, did it?

Listen, if Serena pounds another 24 aces, I don’t care who she plays, she wins another Grand Slam title. Serena serves double-digits mph faster than Radwanska on both first and second serves (averaging 107mph and 90mph respectively), and will certainly attack Radwanska’s pedestrian second serve (76mph).

The key is which Serena Williams comes to play. If the 13-time Grand Slam Champion who has been the dominant player in the women’s game for more than a decade. Since 1999, there have been just three years in which Serena has not won a Grand Slam title. No one else can come close to that stat.

If you had $20k and were betting on the match, I would suggest betting $19k on Serena, and $1k on Aga. Radwanska doesn’t have the big guns and have been blown out by the players with bazookas, but she has plenty of grit and gray matter, and if Serena shows weakness, Aga has the stuff to exploit it. Regardless, history is in the making! Hope you catch it. Game, set, match…T. A.

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