This past day in the men’s Wimbledon quarter finals Marat Safin continued his roll at the 2008 Wimbledon grass court grand slam. Safin was up against a tricky grass court lefty from Spain and it wasn’t Rafael Nadal. Marat was playing Feliciano Lopez known for a very powerful serve and great volleying ability, the type of game suited for the grass courts. The match had the potential to be an emotional roller coaster because like Marat Safin, Lopez is known for letting his head get the best of him.
At the beginning of the match Safin looked back to his old ways, shaking his head, talking to himself even receiving a code violation for abusing the tennis ball. Needless to say he lost the first set 6-3. After the first set it was all Safin, winning in 3 straight sets 7-5, 7-6 (1), 6-3 sending Lopez packing. This is the kind of grand slam Safin fans have been waiting for since 2005 when he won the Australian Open. Will the Cinderella story continue?
Marat Safin is now scheduled for a Semi-final match up against the Wimbledon reigning champion Roger Federer who also happens to be on a 62 game grass court wining streak. Last time they met in a Grand Slam semi-final was in 2005 at the Australian where Safin defeated Roger Federer in a marathon 5 setter and went on to win the final. However, this is a different surface and this is a different Federer.
Some critics have felt Federer may have lost his edge with the rough start this season. Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam this season and was obliterated by Rafael Nadal a month ago in the French Open Final. However, critics seem to forget the fact that Federer had contracted mononucleosis which for many people can take up to 6 months before totally overcoming it. However, since the start of the 2008 grass court season Federer seems to have come back to full form extending his grass court winning streak and vying for his 6th straight Wimbledon title. Let’s face it Federer is the 2008 Wimbledon favourite and anyone who thinks otherwise is just being jealous.
Now let’s have a look at the big Russian Marat Safin. The guy hated grass until 2008 and has been quoted as saying “it is for the cows”. What is interesting is Marat’s abusive style of play which involves crushing the ball off both wings and bringing a very consistent and powerful serve is the style of game that is usually known to dominate the grass court game. At this year’s Wimbledon Safin seems to have brought his game back together and seems genuinely pleased with the way he is playing, which can’t be said for his last 2-3 seasons. One thing that has surprised many is he is able to dig himself out of holes without self imploding and losing his game. That being said the matches Safin has played at this year's Wimbledon did have their share of emotion just watch him sky rocket the ball on one of the points he lost to Lopez earlier today. What is nice to see though is he can get over these outbursts and still bring his A game, something he hadn’t been able to do in quite a while.
Now the big question is, who is going to win, Federer or Safin? Well the obvious favourite is Roger Federer, he has everything on his side. Federer has been playing extremely well since he started the grass court season, he is serving extremely well and he has the drive to win that 6th Wimbledon title. Safin on the other hand has exceeded the fans and critics expectations, as well as his own. I think he is relaxed now because he has finally made it back to a semi-final at a slam and no matter what happens against Federer, he had at last another good run at a grand slam. Safin has obviously been serving well, which will be of utmost importance against Federer and when Safin has been going for the aggressive outright winners he has been making them more then missing them. For Safin he seems to have matured and appears to be concentrated on finishing off the last few years of his career leaving the fans with some good memories.
If Federer is to win it will probably be a straight setter or 3-1 losing only the third set. If Marat wants any chance to pull out a victory and berth in the final, he has to expect a gruelling five setter and he will have to come out guns blazing to take the first set. If Federer wins the first set it will be a quick match for the two and it won’t being going in the big man’s favour.