Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Roddick should defeat Schalken
By MaliVai Washington
Special to ESPN.com
WIMBLEDON, England -- After calling matches for both Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt, it's apparent that both are playing well enough to win the title. Unfortunately, they're meeting in the quarterfinals, not the final.
So far in The Championships, Federer has protected his own serve. Because he has yet to be broken, he's able to be more aggressive and take more chances on his return games.
Meanwhile, Hewitt has done a tremendous job with his return of serve. Against Carlos Moya, Hewitt was getting more than 70 percent of his first serve returns back into play. That made Moya work harder on his own serve.
This match between Federer and Hewitt is reminiscent of the epic Borg vs. McEnroe matches. The best serve-and-volleyer in the game against one of the best returners in the game.
These men have both won this title before. This could go five sets and will likely come down to a handful of points. Each player might at some point have a match point.
Pick: Federer in five
Let's take a look at the other quarterfinal matches.
Florian Mayer, Germany, vs. Sebastien Grosjean (10), France
Mayer finds himself in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time. Germans believe Mayer has a ton of potential, yet this is the first time on a grand stage that we've seen it.
At the Australian Open earlier this year, Mayer lost to David Nalbandian. While you could see flashes of his potential, it was not yet apparent that he had the ability to reach the quarterfinals of a major.
Mayer has the kind of game you don't teach. He has very unorthodox strokes. But as long as the ball goes between the lines, how you get it there doesn't really matter. It's impressive that he was able to beat huge-serving Joachim Johansson in the fourth round. Mayer also played well on his own serve, and that was nice to see.
But Mayer will have to play the best match of the tournament to defeat Sebastien Grosjean. Grosjean has had four relatively comfortable matches so far.
Despite only being 5-foot-9, Grosjean has a surprisingly big serve on grass combined with a huge forehand and speed. It's no accident that he was a semifinalist here last year.
A lot of this match will be played from the baseline. That's a game and style that favors Grosjean.
Pick: Grosjean in four sets
Tim Henman (5), Britain, vs. Mario Ancic, Croatia
Ancic is another guy in his first major quarterfinal, but who would have thought that it was going to come at Wimbledon? Much more likely in Australia, where he reached the fourth round, or even at at Roland Garros.
A big serve will always be a huge advantage on grass and at 6-5, Ancic has that. His height also provides excellent reach at the net. He's never going to be one of the best movers on the court, but for a big man, he moves adequately.
There won't be an empty seat in the house for this one; the crowd will spill over to pack Henman Hill. Henman has been playing solid behind his second serve. Against Philippoussis, Henman hit 110-mph second serves, which are big for him. Henman closes in behind his serve and volleys better than anyone except Federer. Put all that together and you have a grass-court specialist.
Ancic has the best return of serve Henman has faced so far. That might give Henman a problem. If he's sloppy and gives up a break to Ancic that might be all he needs.
Ancic will be subjected to a Davis Cup-type atmosphere. If he's not ready for that, this occasion will eat him up.
Henman will get to his fifth semifinal in the past seven years.
Pick: Henman in four
Sjeng Schalken (12), Netherlands, vs. Andy Roddick (2), United States
Brad Gilbert will have Andy Roddick ready for this match. He has done a great job this year at coming up with a game plan that Roddick executes well.
Roddick's game ebbs and flows with how his serve is popping. When he's getting a lot of free points, he's as good as anyone in the world; when it's not, he has to work more to get the points. He's done a nice job of mixing in his serve and volley. He'll have to against Schalken, who can stand on the baseline and trade groundstrokes with Roddick. Schalken doesn't have quite as much firepower off the ground, but he has an uncanny ability to handle the power and use the pace of his opponent's shot.
The only person as confident as Roddick right now is Federer. And a confident Roddick is a scary proposition for most opponents.
This match will come down to how Roddick serves and, if Schalken is able to hold his own from the baseline, how Roddick responds. If Roddick mixes up his shots with a slice backhand and serve and volley, then his chances are good. But if he reverts back to a one-dimensional style of play and gets frustrated, trying to blow his opponent off the court, then he might find himself on the bad end of a match point. Nonetheless, I think he believes this is his tournament to win.
Pick: Roddick in four
MaliVai Washington, a tennis analyst for ESPN, reached the 1996 Wimbledon final.