Mardy Fish’s lovely wife Stacey Gardner (above), who we’d be surprised to see in such good spirits tomorrow on court 1 when her husband takes on Rafael Nadal.

The big 4 on the men’s side have found their way to the quarter-final round for the 2nd straight major, and we’d be pretty surprised if they don’t all press ahead, making it two straight major semi-finals in which Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, and Murray participated.  Let’s review the latest lines from Caesar’s Palace:

2011 The Championships at Wimbledon Mens Quarter-finals


Rafael Nadal:  – 600

Mardy Fish:  + 350


Andy Murray:  – 1200

Feliciano Lopez:  + 600


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:  + 350

Roger Federer:  – 600


Bernard Tomic:  + 550

Novak Djokovic:  – 1000


In what is fortuitous scheduling for 6 time champion Roger Federer, the great man takes on 12th seed Jo-Wilfred Tsonga up first on centre court.  Should we consider Federer will win, in what could be a tough match–probably the most “even” of tomorrow’s quarter-final matches–then we are counting the few hours of extra rest he will get over probable finals counterpart, Rafael Nadal, who is up second on court one versus American Mardy Fish.  So we are jumping ahead.  Should we not?  Maybe we’ll be sorry tomorrow, but we think not.  Federer is 4-1 lifetime versus Tsonga, and in his only loss, if truth be told, Fed seemed a tad disinterested after getting out 5-1 in the final set in 2009 in the quarters at Montreal.

Federer did not take a lesson from the experience, eventually playing a very disinterested US Open final against Del Potro, which he would lose after leading 2 sets to one–the only time Federer has ever lost a major final after winning 2 out of the first 3 sets.  Perhaps Federer had that in mind when he next met Tsonga, in an Australian semi which was an absolute clinic, 2,3, and 2.  Or perhaps, Tsonga’s balky knee and back were the reason he provided Roger so little competition, as were the rumblings fro Melbourne.  The fact is, Federer has taken 10 of 12 sets from Tsonga lifetime, and holds serve with tremendous ease against the Frenchman, a fact that bodes poorly for Tsonga on grass.

But how do we skip Roger through to the final though, when Djokovic still will stand in his way?  Well, we don’t think the Djoker has the swing of things yet on grass.  There are 2 supreme grass courters right now, and they are Federer and Nadal.  Federer has been playing the big game of late, moving in with ease, making multiple volleys on one point, drop shots, is ripping the backhand, and his forehand is moving quickly through the court.  Djokovic did not have a grass court warmup, and he isn’t quite in a league with the guys who can skip such a usual necessity.  We think it comes down to Federer getting a lot more looks on Djokovic’s serve than vice versa, but we’ll hold off from giving more on that until that matchup becomes a reality.

Speaking of the big game, was that Nadal playing it against Del Potro, for perhaps the first time in his life?  Indeed it was.  If Nadal plays like that the rest of the way, he’s a virtual lock to repeat.  If he plays like he did against Muller (who does have a win versus Rafa at Wimbledon in the books), then we see Federer getting his name on the chalice for a 7th time.  Nadal hit some 60+ winners, was only broken once, hit 13 aces, and played excellent tennis up at net in the round of 16.  So he went off for a little MRI.  Of course it showed no damage.  Are we suggesting Nadal is faking?  Let’s just say he’s quick on the trigger finger when it comes to trainers, and the crass mention of injuries as excuses, before and after he wins and definitely, when he loses.

We’ve seen this script played out before.  Mardy Fish may be 10 pounds lighter than the last time they tangled, but he is still zero for his lifetime against Nadal, and with good reason.  Fish can not hang with Nadal on the baseline and it’s a baseline game.  When he rushes the net, Nadal usually has the goods to pass Fish.  And don’t bring up Mardy’s aces versus Berdych.  So he struck 25.  Against Berdych.  Nadal is so far better of a returner than Berdy that Fish could turn around and go relatively aceless against Rafa.  You know we are notorious for going underdog, and for going against Nadal, but we think Fish is a terrible bet in this spot.  Has he ever really played well in a big match?  And in going back over the series, sure there have been some close sets, but Nadal has won 12 out of 13 of them.

Murray/Lopez has been all Murray in the past, and we expect it to continue.  Lopez can hurt Murray with his serve and the big lefty forehand, but the patient Murray always rides out Lopez’s hot streaks against him until they flame out.  We like Murray in 4, and in 4 matchups so far, Murray is yet to lose.  Let’s be frank.  While Lopez’s best surface is grass, he is a good cut and a half below Murray.  The only way we see this working for Lopez, or Fish for that matter, is if the ankles and/or knees/feet of their opponents fail.  And even then, we don’t see it.  Sure Murray goes out to centre court with a lot of pressure on him, but this isn’t Andy Roddick circa 09 that he’s facing.  Roddick has the ability to play enormously safe tennis, and usually does.  He lulled Murray into a sense of security in that match, and then stormed the palace gates.  Lopez is not the disciplined champion that Roddick is by any stretch, though he is the only man in the field left besides Roger with a win over Nadal on grass.

But tennis is all matchups, and Lopez matches better with Nadal than Murray, like Fish matches way better with Djokovic than Nadal, and has played him to many a nailbiter.  In tomorrow’s matchups, we are heavy with the favorites.  Bringing us to the intriguing Tomic/Djokovic matchup.  On paper, it’s all Djokovic.  Gun to our heads though, we might like the young Aussie.  He’s got a grass court pedigree, and in beating Soderling, we take from that his obvious capabilities.  Murray is a guy who practices on these lawns more than any other guy, because of Davis Cup.  We don’t necessarily feel the magic here with regard to Djokovic, who in our mind, has a lot to prove still on grass.

Are we going with Tomic tomorrow?  No.  Djokovic has lost all of 1 match this year, recall.  But we might like him as much or better than any of the other dogs, considering he’s playing a dog who has rolled over and quit in big spots in majors before.  And Tomic doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body.

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