Because there is not an American (no surprise, considering the terrible state of U.S. men’s tennis) in the men’s championship final at Wimbledon, I would be lying if I said Sunday’s match between Roger Federer and Andy Murray is the biggest Wimbledon final in decades.
But I’d only be lying when it comes to American interests. Federer is a -215 favorite on Bovada with Murray at +165.
In Great Britain, this will be easily the biggest tennis match in a long, long time as Scot Andy Murray looks to become the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. It’s the first time since 1938 that a Brit even made the final, and Murray, the world No. 4, seeks his first Grand Slam title. But certainly it will be a tough task as Federer looks for a seventh Wimbledon title. And here you go U.S. fans: That would tie Pete Sampras for the most ever at the cathedral of tennis.
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Many thought Federer’s days as a major champion were over. He hadn’t won a Slam since his record 16th, coming at the 2010 Australian Open. The Swiss star had only reached one Slam final since then, losing in the 2011 French Open Championship to Rafael Nadal. And it has been Nadal and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic who had surpassed Federer as the players to beat in majors.
But on Friday, Federer pulled a surprise on the defending champion Djokovic, beating him 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach a record eighth final at the All-England Club and Federer’s first since his last title there in 2009. Djokovic had beaten Federer three straight times and six of the past seven, eliminating him the semifinal round of three Slams in that stretch: 2012 French, 2011 U.S. Open and 2011 Aussie Open.
A win Sunday would return Federer to the top ranking and equal Sampras' record of 286 weeks as the top-ranked player. This also will be the 30th consecutive Grand Slam final that has included Federer, Djokovic or Nadal dating to the 2005 Australian Open.
The gracious Federer is extremely popular in England, but there’s obviously little doubt that Murray will have the crowd support. He had reached the semis the past three years, but he ran into Nadal there the past two years – Murray caught a huge break when Nadal was upset in the second round this year as he was in Murray’s half of the draw. Murray reached the final by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
There is no question the pressure of an entire nation will be on Murray, with a win probably making him the most popular athlete in Great Britain over the likes of David Beckham or Wayne Rooney, at least for a little while. Murray does seem to stand a solid chance as he is 8-7 in his career vs. Federer. Oddly, they have met just once since the end of the 2010 season, with Federer winning 7-5, 6-4 earlier this year on the hard courts of Dubai. They have never met on grass, which also is hard to believe.
This one is tough to call. I’m not sure Federer gets another realistic chance at winning here. But Nadal’s exit also seemed to be great karma for Murray. I have to go Federer, with the match to go four sets – no player props out as of this writing.
On the women’s side, American Serena Williams, the pre-tournament favorite with Maria Sharapova, looks for her fifth Wimbledon title. That would tie sister Venus for the third-most in the Open era. Serena hasn’t remotely resembled the player who lost in the first round of the French Open, her first-ever first-round loss in a Slam.
Frankly, Serena still is able to overpower every player on tour even though she is almost 32, which is ancient these days in women’s tennis. In fact, a victory would make Serena the oldest Grand Slam winner since Martina Navratilova, at 33 years 263 days, won Wimbledon in 1990.
Serena had a Wimbledon-record and career-high 24 aces in her 6-3, 7-6(6) win over former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the semis. Serena now has 85 aces in six matches (that’s unheard of for a woman) and hit one at 120 mph vs. Azarenka, which some men can’t even match. Williams hasn’t won a major since winning No. 4 here in 2010. In fairness, she missed three of the seven Slams since due to injury.
The 23-year-old Radwanska, No. 3 in the world, reached her first Slam final -- she had never reached a Slam semi -- with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Angelique Kerber. She is the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam final since 1939. Radwanska is a solid player with few weaknesses (only six unforced errors vs. Kerber), but she hits the ball with nowhere near as much power as Serena, who should be able to pounce on Radwanska’s weak serve. In fact, it’s really a power vs. precision matchup. Radwanska has been able to handle big servers so far this tournament: Camila Giorgi, in the fourth round, touched 114 mph, and her first-round opponent, Magdalena Rybarikova, hit 113.
Williams and Radwanska have faced off just twice and both came in 2008 when Radwanska was a 19-year-old rising player. Serena won both in straight sets, with one of those victories in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Serena is -700 on Bovada, with Radwanska at +425. I think Serena is on a mission as this might be her last best chance to win No. 5 (sort of like the position Federer is in), while Radwanska likely will have many more opportunities. I also like Serena at -275 to win in straight sets but would take +300 that there will be a tiebreak played in the match.
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