Realistically, can anything rival the heroics we witnessed on Centre Court yesterday afternoon? First Roger Federer and Marin Cilic, and then Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, gave us five-set thrillers packed with scorching winners, thumping serves, neat volleys, crafty drop shots, roars, remonstrations, elation, disappointment, stomach-crunching tension and – in the case of the number two and three seeds – the sweet taste of victory. It left us *almost* as exhausted as the players.
So as Federer and Murray breath a deep sigh of relief, and the public filter into Wimbledon for another day of action, who’s set to take to the Centre Court arena to entertain the crowds?
SERENA WILLIAMS (USA) v ELENA VESNINA (RUS)
First up, world number one and defending champion Serena Williams, up against unseeded Russian Elena Vesnina. This could go one of two ways because, when it comes to playing Serena, her sheer power is in danger of blowing you off the court. If her mental game is steady, her physicality will do the talking – and Vesnina, a baseline player, is unlikely to match her with booming groundstrokes. The world number 50 has also failed to claim a single set in their four encounters.
That said, chinks have appeared, albeit briefly, in Serena’s armour since she lifted the SW19 trophy 12 months ago. A shock defeat in the US Open semis to unseeded Roberta Vinci was followed by losses in the Australian and French Open finals as she continues to chase that elusive 22nd Grand Slam to equal Steffi Graf’s record. Will she falter yet again? It’s unlikely, but Vesnina will no doubt be hoping to unsettle the six-time Wimbledon champion.
The loser will get a chance to avenge her opponent later on in the day when the two meet a second time in the ladies’ doubles quarter-finals on No.2 Court.
ANGELIQUE KERBER (GER) v VENUS WILLIAMS (USA)
But before that, Serena’s doubles partner Venus must also battle through her singles semi-final – and her opponent poses a far greater challenge. Angelique Kerber, the fourth seed, is seeking her maiden SW19 title and was in impressive form in her last match against Simona Halep.
Both she and Venus are in familiar territory – Kerber reached the semis in 2012 and will no doubt be bolstered by her maiden Grand Slam at the Australian Open earlier this year (where she beat Serena, no less). But in Williams she has a five-time Wimbledon champion. This may be the 36-year-old’s first semi-final here in seven years but she’s never lost at this stage and is brimming with confidence after her best run of form in years.
This will be another baseline battle – and it’s hard to call. Sentimentalists may be willing one last all-Williams final but Kerber playing her best grass court tennis will be hard to beat.