WIMBLEDON, England — Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinals featured a dramatic comeback, a crackling finish from a man who considered retiring in the first game of his match, another display of resourcefulness from the world No. 1 and an emotional exchange between two countrymen.
Here’s a closer look at how the matches unfolded.
Murray roars back
No. 2 Andy Murray d. Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5: Surely not. Not here. Not now. Not with his draw having been busted open, leaving a path to the final that didn’t include either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
But there was Murray getting bullied off the court by a talented but unseeded player early in Wednesday’s match. Verdasco was going for broke on nearly every stroke, his guttural grunt resonating with every forehand he blasted out of Murray’s reach.
In years past, a cloud of dread would form over Centre Court whenever Murray got into a pickle. Not so this year, though. The Brits believe in their man. They know he’s better than that. And most important, they believe he’s strong enough mentally and physically to turn around any match.
Down two sets, Murray did the typical Murray things. He screamed at himself. He pounded his forehead. He dropped some f-bombs. But he also went to work. He raced away with the third set, held steady in the fourth and simply played better than his opponent when he absolutely had to in the decisive fifth.
All credit to Verdasco here. He has a well-known history of unraveling in spectacular ways — most notably when he double-faulted on match point to lose to Nadal 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 in the 2009 Australian Open semifinals — and you couldn’t help but let out a chuckle when he started the match with a double-fault. But almost as if to foreshadow how different things would be Wednesday, he followed up that double-fault with an ace.
That was the pattern over three hours and 47 minutes. Just when one might have expected Verdasco to crack, he didn’t. An error would be followed by three winners. A tentative serve would be followed by an even bigger second-serve ace. He threw everything at the 2012 finalist — Verdasco finished with 45 winners and 45 unforced errors — but Murray did just enough to complete his seventh victory from a two-set deficit.
“I took my time when I was behind,” Murray told the BBC. “I didn’t make any poor choices, like I was maybe in the second set. That was the difference. I started to play more solid.”
Murray will have a day to recover before meeting Jerzy Janowicz in the semifinals Friday.
Djokovic snuffs out Berdych’s chance
No. 1 Novak Djokovic d. No. 7 Tomas Berdych 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3: Berdych isn’t the most reliable closer in the game, but you would think he wouldn’t be able to squander a 3-0, double-break lead in the second set after losing the first in a tiebreaker. You’d think wrong.
“It was all me,” Berdych said of losing six of the next seven games and missing a chance to level the match at a set apiece. “I didn’t start the game well with the new balls [at 3-0]. I just started with a double‑fault. Then the whole game kept going bad. Once you give him a chance, he just took it back.”
As easy as it would be to chalk up the second-set turnaround to Berdych’s penchant for getting tight in big matches, this was as much about the amount of real estate Djokovic now owns is his rivals’ heads. Djokovic has proved to be so resilient that opponents know he is capable of coming back regardless of the situation. Djokovic is “using that necessary experience to feel comfortable and calm and confident toward the end of the major tournament,” he said.
Djokovic advanced to his 13th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, and he hasn’t dropped a set in five matches. The 2011 champion will face Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals.
Del Potro shakes off injury scare
No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro d. No. 4 David Ferrer 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (5): Del Potro almost didn’t make it out of the first game of the match. On the fifth point, Del Potro slipped running to his backhand wide and appeared to hyperextend his left knee, which was already heavily taped after he hyperextended it in his third-round match. The 6-foot-6 Argentine tumbled hard to the ground and was immediately attended to by the tournament physiotherapist. Del Potro was able to walk to his chair to wait for the doctor to arrive. A teary-eyed Del Potro received some medication and tentatively carried on.
Here’s video of his nasty tumble:
“I think I was close to retiring,” Del Potro admitted after the match. “But to be honest, I didn’t want to retire [being] in the quarters for the first time at Wimbledon. And that’s the reason for continuing play. The doctors give me good anti-inflammatories.”
The scary early moment distracted everyone from just how well Del Potro actually played the entire match. He hit 42 winners to just 11 unforced errors, compared to Ferrer’s 41 winners to 22 unforced. The ease with which he broke Ferrer twice to take the first set was surprising, and though the Spaniard kept the pressure on, Del Potro delivered the big shots.
At 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, Del Potro was pulled wide and cracked a flat, cross-court forehand winner that left everyone’s jaws hanging, a shot reminiscent of the type of stuff he came up with when he won the 2009 U.S. Open (the last time he got as far as the semifinals at a major). Then on match point, Ferrer pulled him wide again and Del Potro nailed a forehand winner down the line. Del Potro collapsed to the grass — this time voluntarily — to celebrate his first Wimbledon semifinal.
“I made my best forehand ever I think in this tournament to beat David,” he said of that match point.
Del Potro added: “Of course many things come to my mind after the match point. It’s my first semifinals here, another semifinals in a Grand Slam after a couple of years. I think I’m in the fight again with the top guys. That is my challenge for the future. And to be one of the only four players in this tournament, it means a lot for the future and for myself.”
You can see Del Potro’s back-to-back forehand winners to close the match beginning at the 1:10 mark of the video below:
Janowicz advances on banner day for Poland
No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz d. Lukasz Kubot 7-5, 6-4, 6-4: The result may have been a foregone conclusion, given that Janowicz served well enough to pound 30 aces in three sets and win 90 percent of his first-serve points, but in the end this was a win for Polish tennis.
Earlier in the tournament, Janowicz credited WTA No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska for giving the Polish players, men and women, belief that they belonged on the world tennis stage. Radwanska, who will play in the semifinals Thursday, was in the crowd Wednesday to watch her compatriots duel to become the first Polish man to reach a Slam semifinal. Also in the crowd was Poland’s Marta Domachowska, who reached a career high of No. 37 in 2006. How rare was it to see two guys from Poland on a tennis court? Neither the 22-year-old Janowicz nor the 31-year-old Kubot had ever played a fellow Polish player on tour.
Behind his powerful serving, Janowicz blasted his way into his first major semifinal without showing a hint of nerves. He finally let it all out on match point, falling to the ground in tears before Kubot came across the net to give him a long hug. The two exchanged shirts and Janowicz tearfully saluted the crowd.
“It’s not easy to control all of the feelings inside my body,” he said. “If you are going through the quarterfinals and you are in the semi of that kind of tournament, it is not easy to control emotions.”
And so Poland has two of the eight semifinalists in the men’s and women’s draws. Janowicz, with his pure power, and Radwanska, with her craftiness, could not play more different games, but they are both so exciting and fun to watch.