By Sandra Harwitt
I know that those involved in the game of tennis are not supposed to be betting on the sport. Nor are they supposed to be facilitating betting on the sport.
And with that acknowledgement out of the way here’s the deal.
If I was a betting sort, I’d offer up a clean, crisp $10 U.S. currency bill — all green and shiny — to anyone out there that can prove to me they picked this intriguing 2014 Wimbledon semifinal lineup.
I can tell you who wouldn’t be winning that $10 bill — ME! Of course, it’s pointless to pay yourself, so no worries. But I readily admit I had no idea that when it came down to the nitty gritty we’d have Novak Djokovic versus Grigor Dimitrov, Roger Federer versus Milos Raonic.
Obviously, Djokovic and Federer could be considered almost givens to be this far. Or at the very least not surprises. After all, Djokovic is a previous Wimbledon champion taking the title home in 2011. And Federer, well he’s won seven of these babies in the past.
But for Dimitrov and Raonic, Grand Slam semifinals present new territory. Both of them have been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal once before — Raonic at the recent French Open and Dimitrov at this year’s Australian Open. But the final four has a very different conontation for a player.
For Canada, it is a memorable occasion as Raonic is the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since William Johnston at the 1922 and 1923 U.S. Championships. And Raonic is only the third Canadian man to reach a semifinal with the other gent being Robert Powell right here at Wimbledon ain 1908.
The one that really is making a statement, however, is Dimitrov, a player with oodles of talent whose been waiting in the wings for his turn to shine.
For Dimitrov the big thrill isn’t that he’s managed to go further than his girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, here at Wimbledon this year. What’s probably going through his mind is that he single-handedly removed the defending champion Andy Murray in impressive 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 fashion, shocking a crowd of Murray fans into silence. And among those fans were none other than Will and Kate — the future King and Queen of England.
“I came out to win the match,” Dimitrov said. “I was really positive. I was ready. I had a lot of patience no matter how many sets I was supposed to play. But I was just composed and I was looking for every point that I had to play.”
When asked if he was surprised at the outcome of taking out Murray, Dimitrov scoffed, “No. Why would I have to be surprised? It’s a good feeling. I’m not going to hide that. It’s a great feeling. I’m proud of what I did.”
The big ask is if Dimitrov can pull the trigger for a second time in a row and upset another favorite for the title. This time around it will be top seed Novak Djokovic, who will be desperate to take a companion replica Wimbledon winner’s trophy home to keep the 2011 one he already has good company.
What Dimitrov will need to do in Friday’s match is not get too far ahead of himself. There’s still a ways to go before he’s the one lifting the sterling hardware on Sunday. But he’s definitely done the heavy work, especially by arriving here straight off of winning the Queen’s Club tuneup event.
Djokovic will come into the encounter with confidence and a 3-1 career edge in their meetings. Dimitrov’s one victory came at the 2013 Madrid-1000 event on clay.
Dimitrov, obviously Bulgaria’s finest, will have to keep a few positives in mind when he heads onto the court.
He’s currently playing on a 10-match winning streak – the longest winning streak of his career.
He’s won a title on grass this season — Queen’s Club — and Djokovic has not.
He’s having the best season of his young career having won three titles: Acapulco, Bucharest and Queen’s Club.
He’s reached a career high ranking of No. 12 in May and is currently ranked just one spot lower at No. 13.
He’s almost guaranteed a spot in the top 10 when the next rankings come out – he should go to No. 9 and possibly No. 7 if he advances to the final.
He’s already a Wimbledon champion having won the junior boys’ title here in 2008.
Dimitrov is at least talking the talk, sounding as if he was ready for the Djoker challenge.
“We all know how Novak is competing and how he’s playing when he’s at his top level,” Dimitrov said. “I’m, of course, not expecting an easy match. But I’m out there to go through a match to win it.”
On Friday will find out if Dimitrov can keep his streak alive.