Richard Gasquet (F) bt. Stanislas Wawrinka (CH) 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9
Novak Djokovic (RS) bt. Marin Cilic (HRV) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
Andy Murray (GB) bt. Vasek Pospisil (CDN) 6-4, 7-5, 6-4
Roger Federer (CH) bt. Gilles Simon (F) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
The last time the top four seeds reached the men’s semi finals – which, let’s face it, is what the seeding system is designed to ensure – was twenty years ago. In 1995, the pantheon consisted of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic. There are twelve Wimbledon Men’s Singles championships between that lot whereas the current crop – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka – can only boast ten. It’s Stan Wawrinka who lets the side down, with his stubborn, some say perverse, refusal to win Wimbledon thus far in his career. Although to cut Stan a little slack – important on this day as on any other – in 1995 the running total only stood at six, with Goran Ivanisevic being the party pooper.
Nevertheless, it’s getting to be something of a habit of Wawrinka’s to let the side down, because yesterday he was at it again. The fourth seed fell on a day when the top three all came through barely breaking a sweat. But while their dominant exhibitions may be good for the bank balance, the kind of match that Stan played out with Richard Gasquet on Court 1 is good for the soul. It was magnificent. Technique, power, eccentricity, luck and judgement were all there in abundance at the finest match of the tournament so far.
Stan Wawrinka has the exact face of Karl Pilkington, the exact shoulders of a scrum half and a backhand like Gheorghe Hagi’s left foot. What’s more, before yesterday’s match he had not yet lost a single set at Wimbledon 2015. He kept himself entertained by worrying about a niggly shoulder and muttering to himself in whatever the hell language a Swiss of Czech lineage mutters to themselves in when playing a tennis tournament in London against a French opponent. Gasquet on the other hand found himself a most thrilling and industrious displacement activity, changing the grip on his racquet during virtually every changeover. He also cuts keys, does watch batteries and develops photographs in under an hour.
Presumably Gasquet had his reasons for the perpetual regripping of his trusty wand. Superstition? Fear that the handle may transform into an eel and fly away? He only remembered to bring one racquet? Whichever it was, it was working for him. Gasquet is the latest in a long line of impossibly cool and stylish French tennis players to make a name for themselves on the grass courts of SW19. None have any particular calling card nor notable weakness. Gasquet serves, volleys and hits groundstrokes, mixing his game up in a way in the exact way I have always found very pleasurable to watch. And while his backhand is not quite like Gheorghe Hagi’s left foot, it is at the very least as good as David Beckham’s right.
Gasquet has never yet achieved his full potential: he dominated the junior game but has not yet repeated his form in the seniors. This will be his second Wimbledon semi final and his third Grand Slam semi overall. He has played brilliantly this fortnight and only the incautious would write off his chances in Friday’s meeting with the world number 1.
On Centre Court, both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic made short work of their opponents. Murray was heavily fancied against this year’s surprise package, Canada’s Vasek Pospisil and did not disappoint, keeping his concentration in spite of two rain delays and the lid being brought across for the final two sets. Djokovic, too, was fancied to progress against Marin Cilic, a player to whom he has never lost. But he will be pleased by the manner of his win, having needed two days to win his previous round’s match against Kevin Anderson in five sets and having needed five sets to defeat Cilic at Wimbledon last year. He’ll enjoy his day off tomorrow. He’s probably reading this and eating a box of Maltesers in bed right now. Hello, Novak.
Djokovic had the harder of the quarter finals but his prize was the easier semi, because Andy Murray has now set up the much anticipated and completely delicious meeting with Roger Federer, who defeated Gilles Simon comfortably before the main event on Court 1. I am beside myself just thinking about it, frankly. The last time Mederer and Furray came together at The Championships was in the 2012 final and the Scotsman ended the day in tears. However, the last time they played at Wimbledon, Murray comfortably defeated the Swiss to win the Olympic Gold Medal in straight sets. My personal feeling is that the final will be between Djokovic and Murray, but quite how much of Andy Murray will still be fully functional is very much open for speculation.
Today is Ladies’ Day. A similarly delectable match awaits us second on Centre Court, Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova. First up will be Aga Radwanska, aiming for a second Wimbledon final, and Garbine Muguruza, who is in a rich vein of form. Wimbledon is delivering once again.