LONDON – On Friday at Wimbledon 2015, the four remaining men will take Centre Court to play for a spot in the final. First starting at 1 p.m. BT, 8 a.m. ET will be No. 1 Djokovic vs. No. 21 Richard Gasquet, followed by No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 3 Andy Murray.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 21 Richard Gasquet (H2H: 11-1)
With all due respect to the Frenchman, Djokovic must’ve been quite happy when he saw Gasquet gut out a tough five-set win over No. 4 Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. The win means that Djokovic not only avoids the mental battle of playing Wawrinka so soon after losing the French Open final, but he also gets to face Gasquet in the semifinals—a man he he has not lost since 2007.
"Richard is in semifinals for a reason," Djokovic said, when asked if he was slightly relieved not to face Wawrinka. "I watched a little bit of that match. I was playing during their match as well, so I couldn't see much. Last couple games, I saw him. It's a great effort from him to mentally stay tough because Stan, you know, is one of the toughest players on the tour. In decisive moments he goes for his shots. As I said, great effort from Richard. I'm sure it's going to be close match between us."
Djokovic may be sure but the numbers say otherwise. Since losing to Gasquet at the 2007 ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic has lost just one set in nine meetings with the Frenchman. Gasquet has never won a set off him at the Slams and he has lost 15 of his last 17 matches against Top 10 opponents.
That said, this is their first meeting on grass. Based on Slam results this is Gasquet's best surface, having now made two Wimbledon semifinals. Regardless, Gasquet knows he's a heavy underdog on Friday.
"I'm proud because there are big players in semis," Gasquet said. "I'm the worst when you see Federer, Djokovic and Murray and me. I want to enjoy it."
Gasquet and Djokovic played just last month at the French Open. Djokovic won 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in the Round of 16. The key for Gasquet to have a shot on Friday: Aggression and belief.
"I played him in Paris," Gasquet said. "I tried to control the game. Of course, he was playing much better than me. I couldn't do many games in that match. So I want to enjoy it, to play a better match than I did in Paris. It's important for me to think I can win this match. That's the most important. To go on the court and think you can win, it's something I need to do it on my mental part, to be there to win."
No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 3 Andy Murray (H2H: 12-11)
Ah, the summer of 2012. It was the summer of Federer and Murray and the resulting outcomes at Wimbledon and the London Olympics a month later would serve as a major milestone for both men. Federer won his last major title at Wimbledon that year, beating Murray 4–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–4 in the Brit's first Wimbledon final. Murray immediately rebounded from that tearful loss, getting his revenge in the Olympic final, beating Federer on Centre Court 6–2, 6–1, 6–4, and went on to win his first major a few months later at the U.S. Open.
"After what had happened in the Wimbledon final a few weeks before, then to play against the same opponent in the final of the Olympics a few weeks later and win, it was a big turning point in my career," Murray said. A year later he would make his second Wimbledon final and go on to become the first British man in 77 years to hoist the Wimbledon singles trophy.
Fast forward to the present and the two men now find themselves in similar positions as they were back then. Despite their accomplishments, they both arrived at Wimbledon in 2015 with something to prove. For Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, this tournament remains his best chance at adding to his tally of 17 major titles. For Murray, after undergoing back surgery and battling his way back to his top form, he wants to prove he can do it again, this time with coach Amelie Mauresmo in his corner.
Said Murray: "I feel like I'm playing better tennis than I was then, but I don't think those matches that we played here in the past will have too much bearing on the outcome on Friday."
Federer is 4-1 against Murray at the Slams and has beaten Murray in their last three matches. The caveat there is those matches came last season, when Murray was still struggling with is body and his confidence. The last of those wins, a 6–0, 6–1 drubbing at the ATP World Tour Finals, sparked the change in Murray's team. He parted ways with long-time friend and coach Dani Vallverdu, a signal of his full faith in his partnership with Mauresmo.
"A lot of people in my team, people around me, were very, very worried by that match," Murray said. "I felt quite calm about it. It was obviously embarrassing, the scoreline. But I kind of looked at the few weeks before then, the matches also that I played at the O2, the matches I played against Novak over that period as well, kind of assessed it and said, Where am I going wrong against the top guys and what is it that I need to do to get back to that level competing with them? I dealt with it that way and tried to be rational about it."
Friday's semifinal will be their first meeting since that London rout. Wisely, Federer refused to put much stock in the result as he looks to make his record 10th Wimbledon final.
"I thought [at the] World Tour Finals, he came in tired," Federer said. "You know, he had won three tournaments back‑to‑back‑to‑back. He left everything out there, making the World Tour Finals. I think when I played him, he was a bit cooked, to be honest. I played a great match, but it was not the Andy that usually comes up and shows up."
Both men are the most in-form grass court players of the season. Both are on a 10-match win streak on grass after Federer won Halle and Murray won Queen's. Federer has spent the least amount of time on court of all the semifinalists and his serve has been broken just once all tournament. He has been brutally efficient as he's cruised through wins over Damir Dzumhur, Sam Querrey, Sam Groth, Roberto Bautista Agut and Gilles Simon.
Murray is looking to snap his 11-match losing streak to players ranked in the top 2. He comes in with wins over Mikhail Kuskushkin, Robin Haase, Andreas Seppi, Ivo Karlovic and Vasek Pospisil.
"It's been good so far," Federer said, describing his form in the tournament. "I felt like I played a very solid last year or so, especially on the grass I've done very well. I'm happy to keep it up here now. This is obviously now crunch time when you want to show if your game's really up to par."