The final eight men are all in action at Wimbledon on Thursday. Here’s a preview of who’s playing who and what to watch for:
First up on Centre Court, hometown hero and 2013 Wimbledon winner Andy Murray faces unseeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil. Murray leads the H2H 3-0 but Pospisil is also a Wimbledon champion (he and American Jack Sock won the doubles trophy versus the top-ranked Bryan brothers in 2014), so he’s no stranger to handling the pressure awaiting him. Still, the entire stadium – heck, the entire United Kingdom – will be rooting for Murray. Pospisil isn’t just playing one guy; he’s playing a nation. Watch for how many times Murray sarcastically shouts at his player’s box during the match, even when he’s winning.
Second on Centre, defending champion and #1 player Novak Djokovic plays the 2014 U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic (hailing from Croatia). Djokovic needed five sets to get past Kevin Anderson in the fourth round, which depending how you view it either makes him more vulnerable or more confident. Either way, he will need all his returning skills to handle Cilic’s booming serve (he’s 6'6"). Cilic has never beat Djokovic in 12 tries. It’s unlikely this time will be any different. Watch for the amazing ways Djokovic can bend and stretch to return big serves. He’s a human Gumby.
Over on Court 1, 2014 finalist and 7-time champion Roger Federer takes on the wily Frenchman (and human backboard) Gilles Simon. Simon has beaten Federer twice before but never at a Slam. Federer is the clear favorite but Simon will get a lot of balls back, making this a tough test for the Maestro. Simon will also have to deal with the crowd, too, as Federer always gets more support and this is by far his most favorite place to play. Watch for how many times Federer uses his towel; this guy never seems to sweat! Also keep an eye out for a potential tweener.
Lastly, 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka takes on another Frenchman, Richard Gasquet. Wawrinka is full of confidence, so expect him to push Gasquet off the court with his exploding, powerful groundstrokes. Also expect Gasquet to get many of those balls back; he plays pretty far back behind the baselines. Regardless, it’s going to be a beautiful battle of one-handed backhands. Watch for Wawrinka’s down-the-line backhand, though. When it’s on, it’s on – and it’s spectacular.
Luckily, ESPN and ESPN2 are airing both courts, so fans can go back and forth between the matches and not miss the any of the drama.