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Can anyone stop Federer & Nadal? Men’s quarter-final preview

Roger Federer starts on Court One, while Rafael Nadal is on Centre after Novak Djokovic
Wimbledon 2018 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club, Wimbledon Dates: 2-15 July
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TVs and the BBC Sport website and app; Live Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra commentary; Text commentary online.

Ten years ago, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal contested a Wimbledon final which many believe is the greatest tennis match ever played.

Now aged 36 and 32 respectively, the top-seeded pair are each two wins away from a romantic rematch.

But first they have to negotiate their quarter-final matches on Wednesday.

While Federer, Nadal and fellow all-time great Novak Djokovic are old hands at reaching this stage, there are three debutants in the SW19 quarter-finals in Kevin Anderson, Kei Nishikori and John Isner.

Meanwhile, 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic and 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro are in familiar territory.

Here, with the help of two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, BBC Sport looks at how the last eight men standing match up…

Roger Federer (Swi) [1] v Kevin Anderson (SA) [8]

Federer’s progress through the draw has been smooth and serene, not dropping a set nor losing a service game on his way to an Open era record 53rd Grand Slam quarter-final.

Another straight-set win over Anderson will see the Swiss great better his record run of 34 consecutive sets at SW19, which he enjoyed between the third round in 2005 and the final in 2006.

“I don’t think it’s something anybody aims for, to win every match in straight sets,” Federer said.

“I hope I get off to a good start, go from there. If it happens, it happens.”

Anderson, 32, is one of the biggest servers on tour and the hot conditions are helping his game. However, the 2017 US Open finalist has never taken a set off Federer in four previous meetings.

Andy Murray’s verdict: “Roger is playing well and moving well, and against Anderson he leads 4-0 in their head-to-head. So I feel comfortable he would get through.

“It would take an unbelievable serving performance from Anderson. If he serves 80% first serves and Roger has a really bad serving day, then he might have a chance.”

Milos Raonic (Can) [13] v John Isner (US) [9]

Stats are for Wimbledon 2018

A battle of the big servers is likely to see plenty of baseline rallies and not much court-craft.

Between them, Raonic and Isner occupy the top two places in the ace count and fastest serves standings.

Isner has a higher percentage of landed first serves than anyone else, while only Federer has won more points on his first serve than Raonic.

“There’s a good chance it’s going to come down to a few points here and there,” said Isner. “It’s strength on strength, for sure.”

Raonic has the greater experience at Wimbledon, however, reaching at least the last eight in four of his past five appearances here – including a run to the 2016 final where he was beaten by home favourite Andy Murray.

“It’s a surface that’s going to allow me to come forward more,” he said. “It’s going to help my volleys when I’m at the net stay a little bit lower, these kind of things.

“It’s harder for other guys to move. If they’re not moving as well, it’s hard for them to be in balance for passing shots.”

Andy Murray’s verdict: “This is tie-breaks. Isner is 3-1 up head to head and that’s a bit surprising for me. Raonic is maybe a little bit more comfortable on the grass than John but that is an impossible match to pick. I wouldn’t want to bet on that one.”

Novak Djokovic (Ser) [12] v Kei Nishikori (Jpn) [24]

To claim Djokovic is back to his 12-time Grand Slam winning best would be a tad premature, but the 31-year-old Serb is getting closer to it.

The three-time champion, who has not reached a Slam semi-final since the 2016 US Open, clinically despatched Karen Khachanov in the last 16 and will be considered favourite to beat Nishikori.

Djokovic has beaten the Japanese 24th seed in 13 of their 15 meetings.

“So far four matches have been really, really good for me,” said Djokovic, who eliminated British number one Kyle Edmund in the third round.

“I haven’t spent too much time on the court. I feel physically, mentally ready, fit, positive.”

Former world number four Nishikori, who has never faced Djokovic on grass, has lost twice to him this year on clay.

“It’s always like a big war for me,” said Nishikori on facing Djokovic. “It’s always a big challenge.”

Andy Murray’s verdict: “In terms of his level and the way he’s playing, I think Novak is back to where he wants to be. Mentally he looks where he needs to be – looks fired up and motivated. He’s got a great shot.”

Juan Martin del Potro (Arg) [5] v Rafael Nadal (Spa) [2]

Like his great rival Federer, Nadal has reached the last eight without dropping a set.

The 32-year-old looks refreshed following his decision to pull out of Queen’s and now, unlike Del Potro, has had the benefit of a day off.

Del Potro was forced to finish his last-16 match against Gilles Simon on Tuesday because of fading light on Monday, but said afterwards he felt he would be in a “good condition”.

The Argentine is one of the most popular players among tennis fans, not least because he has had to overcome serious wrist injuries which left him contemplating retirement.

But he persevered through dark times and is rewarded with his second successive Slam quarter-final – the first time he has done that since reaching the last eight at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2012.

The fifth seed lost to Nadal in the Paris semi-finals last month, however.

“It will be a different match that we played in Paris few weeks ago,” he said. “I will try to hold my service games most of the time.

“If I want to beat him, I have to come to the net very often and play hard with my forehands, with my backhands, and try to take all the chances.”

Murray’s verdict: “Nadal faces a tough match against Del Potro. If Del Potro is physically there – I saw some of his match against Gilles Simon on Monday and he seemed to have some issues – that’s not an easy match.”

Federer makes rare appearance on Court One

Eight-time champion Federer will play on Court One for the first time since the 2015 quarter-finals, with former world number one Djokovic’s match against Nishikori put on Centre.

The Serb has only played once on Centre this year – his third-round win over Edmund.

He has played twice on the 11,000-capacity Court One this year, and once on the 4,000-seater court two for his second-round clash against Horacio Zeballos.

Murray’s verdict: “Rafa and Del Potro has to be on Centre – that is the best match of the quarters.

“The fans on Court One will love seeing Roger and while some ticket holders on Centre might be upset, they have two brilliant matches to look forward to.”

BBC Sport

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