“I feel good about myself in this moment. I think I actually play a better tennis on grass than I played two years ago, when I won this tournament,” said Djokovic, who never before had won every set he played in five previous trips to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. “For now, I’m feeling good. I’m No. 1 of the world. I have no reason to be concerned about my game.”
He is bidding to reach the semifinals for a 13th consecutive Slam, the second-longest streak in men’s tennis history, behind only Federer’s 23-semifinal run.
Djokovic has played in seven of the last 10 major finals, and he’s combined with Federer and Nadal to win 31 of the past 33 trophies.
The only other men in those eight-plus years to win a Grand Slam title were Murray and del Potro. Murray has elbowed his way into the upper echelon, turning the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic Big 3 into a Big 4 lately, participating in the finals of the last three major tournaments he entered (he missed this year’s French Open with a bad back).
Murray memorably broke down in tears while addressing the Centre Court crowd after losing last year’s championship match at Wimbledon to Federer. Murray was the first British man to reach the final since 1938 and fell one win short of giving the country its first male champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
Said Murray that day, his voice cracking: “I’m getting closer.”
He was, indeed.
A month later, in the same arena, he defeated Federer for a gold medal at the London Olympics.
And then, in September, Murray edged Djokovic in five sets at Flushing Meadows to snap an 0-4 drought in Grand Slam finals. He followed that up by getting to the Australian Open final in January, only to lose to Djokovic.
“You do learn a lot from losing. I’d lost enough big matches to want to win one and learn from how I managed to win a major event,” Murray said. “The one thing I would say from having experienced it is just I kept trying to work harder and harder, try and keep improving my game from losses. That’s why I eventually managed to sort of get over that final hurdle.”
He has won 15 matches in a row, and 21 of his past 22, on grass courts, going into Wednesday against Verdasco, a former top-10 player whose only major semifinal came at the 2009 Australian Open.
This will be their 10th meeting on tour; Murray leads 8-1.
They’ve known each other for years, dating to when Murray moved to Spain to train at a tennis academy there.
“Going to be difficult to beat him, also with the crowd and everything,” Verdasco said. “I mean, you need to have faith and try your best to try to win.”
Berdych also has a daunting head-to-head record to overcome: He is 2-13 against Djokovic. But Berdych might derive some hope from knowing he beat Djokovic the last time they met, on clay at Rome in May, and also the only time they’ve played each other on grass, in the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals.
Berdych eliminated Federer in the quarterfinals that year, but lost to Nadal in the final.