Nine days ago no one would have bet against the Big Four would filling the semi-final lineup, How wrong they would have been as Roger Federer is the sole member to reach the last four with Rafa Nadal having exited in the fourth round, and both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic making bidding their farewells in the quarter-finals.
I’m still in a little bit of shock myself! Sam Querrey
The first of those upsets came on Centre Court when the defending champion Andy Murray limped out of The Championships having lost to Sam Querrey, the big serving American who reached his first grand slam semi-final at his 42nd attempt.
Without diminishing the big Americans achievement, it became evident that his opponent after a blistering start to go one set and a break up, was very much in command but at 4-3 in the second, the momentum switched as it became apparent Murray was carrying an injury.
Querrey was quick to take advantage, moving the Briton as much as possible as he gained more and more confidence, keeping the pressure on. And it paid dividends for he recorded a very satisfying 3-6 6-4 6-7(4) 6-1 6-1 victory.
For much of the tournament, Murray had played down any worries about the hip injury he picked up the week before The Championships and to his credit, he played through to make the last eight and even then, refused to retire when it was clear that he couldn’t maintain the pace.
“The whole tournament I’ve been a little bit sore,” he said. “But I tried my best right to the end. You know, gave everything I had. I’m proud about that. But it’s obviously disappointing to lose at Wimbledon. There’s obviously an opportunity there. So I’m sad that it’s over.
“I think I had chances in the first three sets. I mean, the second set, I think I was up 4-3, then got broken twice there. That obviously turned out to be quite an important part of the match.
“Sam served extremely well at the end of the match, you know, loosened up, was going for his shots. Nothing much I could do.”
For the victor the spoils of playing his first grand slam semi-final. It took him a while to digest that fact as walking off court straight into an interview, he commented with a big wide grin: “I’m still in a little bit of shock myself!”
It also means that Querrey, 29, is the first men’s player from the United States to reach the last four of a grand slam tournament since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009. He has also recorded consecutive victories over the defending champion having also beaten Novak Djokovic last year in the third round.
Querrey will play No. 7 Marin Cilic, a former US Open champion, who eliminated the 16th seed Gilles Müller, Nadal’s conqueror in that epic fourth round five-hour marathon which went to 15-13 in the fifth set, out on Court No. 1.
Muller showed no ill effects following his marathon and picked up where he left off, serving powerfully to put Cilic on the defensive. He roared through to take the opening set, and even recovered after two further hard-hitting sets, to win the fourth to level and go into another five-setter.
Unfortunately for the 34-year-old from Luxembourg he eventually ran out of steam and Cilic collected the decider comfortably to secure his place in the last four for the first time at Wimbledon, 3-6 7-6 7-5 5-7 6-1 and get one match closer to playing for his second grand slam title.
The clash between him and Querrey will be a test of nerves with both players hoping to out-serve the other but he hopes his previous experience of having won a grand slam title will stand him in good stead..
As Cilic said: “Players at this stage of the tournament are playing great tennis. You can’t take that for granted. The only part that it could be easier for me is that Sam hasn’t been at this part of the tournament so far … Maybe that can have a small part in playing that match. But I don’t think it’s going to matter big-time.”
As for Muller, he didn’t believe he was tired from his win over Nadal. “I don’t think the match (against Nadal) had an impact,” Muller said. “I think I did my job pretty well after that match to stay focused, didn’t try to let all the hype around me take any effect.”
And Querrey wasn’t overawed at the prospect of facing Ciic. “Marin is ranked, like, 5,” the American said. “He’s right outside of the ‘Big Four.’ That’s going to be a tough one.”
Cilic and Querrey have played twice before at Wimbledon, with the Croat winning in five sets in 2009 and 2012. The latter, in which Cilic won the final set 17-15, lasted 5½ hours and is the second longest men’s singles match in Wimbledon history.
“We played few times. Most of the matches were very tight, quite long, especially here,” Cilic said. “He’s got a big game. Potentially that can hurt anyone in the game.”
It could well prove another marathon for the fans.
Meanwhile in the bottom half of the draw, another injury affected the result but this time, brought play to a halt.
The three-time Wimbledon champion retired with an elbow injury during his quarter-final match with Tomas Berdych after losing the first set on a 7-2 tiebreak and then trailing 2-0 in the second following a medical time out.
The injury looks quite serious and surgery may be contemplated as his right elbow had been giving him trouble for the past 18 months and feeling pain throughout the fortnight.
“There is a possibility that they will propose surgery, but I don’t think that is good,” Djokovic told the Serbian media. “The intensity and the level of pain was not decreasing. It was only increasing as the days went by,” adding: “Unfortunately, today was the worst day.”
“It’s unfortunate that I had to finish Wimbledon, a Grand Slam, this way,” he continued “I mean, if someone feels bad about it, it’s me. But, you know, I tried.”
He also said the postponement of his Round-of-16 match against Adrian Mannarino, which was pushed back a day to Tuesday because of the marathon Muller Nadal five-setter, might have played a role.
“Probably the fact that I played yesterday, kind of days adding up, as I’ve said before, it wasn’t helping at all,” he said.
The retirement means Berdych, 31, has reached the semifinals for the second year running,. But now he has to face Roger Federer if he is to make the final for the second time in his career, his previous visit being in 2010. And the seven-time champion of Wimbledon is looking in great form, now a clear favourite to collect his eighth Championship trophy.
Federer beat last year’s finalist Milos Raonic with an effortless performance winning 6-4 6-2 7-6(4) and immediately expressed concern at the fate of his two main rivals.
“You wish them well right away as a rival to them and a friend,” said Federer when he came off court. “You want them to be healthy again. Andy, I hope by playing he didn’t make things worse. It’s big for him to step out on court and give it a go, even though maybe knowing, like me last year, the chances are slim he was going to defend this title.
“I have a lot of respect for him doing that. I just hope that he comes out on the other side now not having to miss much later on. I just hope he can recover quickly and get ready for America really, or Canada for that matter.”
As for himself, he added: “I’m playing very well. I’m rested. I’m fresh. I’m confident too.”