Those Fabled Mole People

Time to finish my preview of the Wimbledon quarterfinals. High time. The first part can be found here.

(3) Federer v (12) Tsonga

Proving emphatically that there is momentum to be gained from a strong showing at Queens, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has numbered among the more fearsome and complete performers through Wimbledon’s early going, which makes his date with Roger Federer both the pick of the quarterfinals, and the trickiest to pick. For Federer, victory will hinge on being Roger Federer, or, more specifically, his serve, his willingness to molest the Frenchman’s backhand, and his assertiveness on breakpoints. Undeniably, Tsonga’s returning has shown dramatic improvement, but he has faced no one as lethal as the six-time champion, who has been impeccable since arriving in Paris five weeks ago.

Nonetheless, there were flat patches in Federer’s otherwise hugely engaging victory over Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round, the kind of lapses that have liberally peppered his late career, but which have been laudably rare of late. Against Youzhny, it cost him a tight first set, and might have cost him the fourth had he not been so far ahead. The latter stages of the world’s most prestigious tournament is probably not the ideal time to regress to type. Federer invariably lifts as the draw pares down, but even in his tediously-missed heyday he was never much chop on break points. For Tsonga, victory over Federer will thus depend on his hold game, which means a great deal more than merely serving. He has served beautifully so far, it’s true, but he has also backed it up with typical gusto off the ground and at the net, and an atypical commitment to not blow it. Being French, he is genetically obliged to thrown in one truly appalling service game per set, and Federer’s capacity to capitalise on these moments will likely prove definitive.

(2) Djokovic v (Q) Tomic

Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic has of course been the story of the tournament’s first half, although Novak Djokovic has been the story of the year. Nonetheless, so far at Wimbledon the Serbian No.2 has travelled so far under the radar that he has almost been burrowing through the turf, apparently gaining an antipathy for the fabled mole people in the process. Consequently, the only headline he has gained this week was when he snapped mid-match, and sought to demolish their tiny kingdom with his racquet. Warring upon mole people is an immediate code violation.

The conglomerate of mental defects otherwise known as the Australian sports media has been making hay with the news that Tomic and Djokovic hit up together a few times of late. Thus we learn that the young Australian will face his ‘good friend’ on Court One tonight. It hard to blame them for getting so excited, though doing so is still worth the effort. During Tomic’s very accomplished dismissal of Xavier Malisse in the fourth round, Todd Woodbridge apologised at one point for playfully wishing ill-luck upon the Belgian, whereupon John Newcombe admonished his younger colleague. The real issue, by Newk’s reckoning, was that Woodbridge had pulled up shy of wishing Malisse actual physical harm, or using a genuine voodoo doll.

Anyway, expect Djokovic to see off his new bestest friend in straight sets. Tomic has performed magnificently, and may again tonight, but he is about to encounter the player of the year, relentlessly intense, liquid quick and utterly unshakeable. That is, unless the mole people retaliate.

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