This year’s men’s quarterfinalists at Wimbledon have something in common that no other final eight group has shared in the 2000s—and it doesn’t have to do with grass, either.
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, David Goffin, Roberto Bautista Agut, Sam Querrey and Guido Pella have all experienced victory on clay before reaching the quarterfinals at the All England Club.
Of course, Nadal’s bona fides on the dirt are firmly established (12 French Open titles will do that). Djokovic and Federer are past champions at Roland Garros, too. And over the past several years, Nishikori has established himself as a contender on the surface with back-to-back Barcelona titles, as well as runner-up finishes at the Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Monte Carlo.
The four other players that reached the final eight own a title apiece on the clay. Back in 2014, Goffin reached the first final of his career in Kitzbuhel, Austria, where he beat the home favorite—and eventual two-time French Open finalist—Dominic Thiem for the championship.
Bautista Agut also won his first clay-court title in 2014, when he claimed the top prize in Stuttgart in July. It was the second victory of his career, with his first coming a month earlier on grass in Rosmalen, which only served to further dispel the notion that Spaniards are always at their best on the dirt.
Querrey got an early jump on those two when he came out on top at the defunct Serbia Open in 2010. In the final there, he defeated compatriot John Isner in the first all-American clay-court final on European soil in nearly two decades.
Going into Wimbledon, Pella probably best fit the mold of what would be considered a clay-court specialist with his five career singles finals all coming on the dirt, including his big breakthrough this year in Brazil.
Me encantaría poder expresar lo que significa este título para mi pero no puedo,lo único que se me viene a la mente es alivio, paz y tranquilidad. Muchas gracias a todo mi equipo que está en Buenos Aires por ayudarme a seguir creyendo en mi. Ahora sin esta mochila seguimos buscando mejorar y confiados en que esto es el comienzo de algo lindo!
Over the years, players have increasingly made the transition from clay to grass look as seamless as possible, no doubt due to the surfaces playing more uniform and heavier balls leading to more rallies. The culmination of all that has led to a quarterfinal group at Wimbledon that can make its mark on any surface.
On Wednesday, the semifinals were set when Federer dismissed Nishikori, Nadal ousted Querrey, Djokovic dismantled Goffin and Bautista Agut got past Pella. Federer will play Nadal and Djokovic will face Bautista Agut on Friday.
Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias