Nepal | June 05, 2020

Big 3 not slowing down as Wimbledon heads to quarterfinals

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FILE: Switzerland’s Roger Federer (left), Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (centre) and Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Photos: Reuters

WIMBLEDON: The Big Three sure do not appear to be slowing down. If anything, they are as dominant as ever.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic head into Wednesday’s quarterfinals at Wimbledon owning 14 of the last 16 championships at the All England Club. They have won the past 10 Grand Slam titles overall and 53 of 64.

And the way they made it through the fourth round, dropping a combined total of 19 games across their three victories, served as simply the latest reminder of the gulf between them and everyone else.

“The best guys now are fully engaged, they know exactly what to expect from the court and the conditions. That helps us to play better. I think with experience, that’s good. We haven’t dropped much energy in any way. It’s not like we’re coming in with an empty tank into the second week,” said Federer, an eight-time champion at Wimbledon. “All these little things help us to then really thrive in these conditions.”

Sam Querrey, the American ranked 65th whose task is to take on Nadal for a semifinal berth, was asked what message the trio has sent with its supremacy over the last 15 years.

“Just: ‘We’re better than you guys,’” Querrey replied.

Well put.

For the 24th time, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic reached the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament together. On 20 of those previous occasions, one eventually walked away with the trophy. Would be rather surprising if this doesn’t become the 21st.

In addition to No. 3 seed Nadal vs. Querrey, the other matchups Wednesday are No. 1 Djokovic vs. No. 21 David Goffin, No. 2 Federer vs. No. 8 Kei Nishikori, and No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut vs. No. 26 Guido Pella.

The most excited member of the group was Pella, a 29-year-old from Argentina who eliminated 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic and 2018 runner-up Kevin Anderson on his first trip past the third round at a major tournament.

“It’s the first time in my career I feel important,” Pella said.

If Federer and Nadal both win, they would meet in the semifinals, just like they did at the French Open last month, when Nadal was on his way to a 12th championship in Paris. They haven’t played each other in any round at Wimbledon since the marvelous 2008 final, when Nadal edged Federer 9-7 in the fifth set in dwindling daylight.

First things first, though.

Querrey’s serve could be the key to his matchup against Nadal, who has won two of his 18 Grand Slam trophies on the All England Club’s grass. Querrey — whose best showing at a major was reaching Wimbledon’s semifinals two years ago — leads the tournament with 100 aces and by winning 71 of 72 service games.

But Nadal, who is 33, is no slouch as a returner. He has converted 49% of his break chances so far, 19 of 39, which is second-best to Federer among the quarterfinalists.

“He doesn’t take a point off. Just being lefty is kind of a challenge in itself. You know, he’s intense. He’s a shotmaker. He’s energetic,” Querrey said. “You know when you go out there, he’s going to make you beat him.”

The same could be said of Federer, who seeks his 21st Grand Slam title as his 38th birthday approaches on Aug. 8, or Djokovic, who is aiming for his 16th at age 32.

While Nishikori has only been to one Grand Slam final, at the 2014 US Open, and Goffin has yet to reach the semifinals, getting to this portion of a major tournament is old hat for their opponents.

That, of course, makes a difference.

“The experience we have helps confidence. Everything that we have achieved in our careers, obviously, we carry onto the court, then most of the players feel that, feel pressure,” Djokovic said. “For us, it’s another match on the center stage that we’ve experienced so many times.”


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