A rather unpredictable fortnight in both the women’s and men’s draws concludes this weekend with the Wimbledon singles championships.
On Saturday morning, Venus Williams, at thirty-seven years of age, will look to claim her sixth Wimbledon title and become the oldest female Grand Slam champion ever. But in her way is Garbine Muguruza, a major champion herself at just twenty-three years-old. And in the men’s final on Sunday, Roger Federer–ever heard of him?–has an opportunity to add to his record number of Grand Slam trophies against Marin Cilic, an imposing, 6’6″ Croatian who won the U.S. Open in 2014.
I’ll start with my take on the women’s final. Both Venus and Mugurza have put together many commanding performances throughout the tournament, which is all the more remarkable considering neither was pegged as a favorite entering Wimbledon. I’d say Muguruza has had the more impressive run, considering how she disposed two highly-ranked players, including world-number one Angelique Kerber. But Williams, who beat sixth-ranked Johanna Konta and reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko en route to the final, has been nearly as dominant. Like Muguruza, she too has only dropped one set during the tournament.
With both players riding equally strong waves of momentum into the final, let’s look at some numbers to see who has the edge. One trend that stands out immediately is Muguruza’s aggressiveness. In her six matches this tournament, she’s won a staggering 92 points at the net and taken a third of her shots from inside the baseline, according to ESPN. Translation: she’s constantly attacking. This has consequences, though. At times, Muguruza becomes very error-prone, as evidenced by her 50 unforced errors in her victory over Kerber (fortunately she made up for it with 54 winners).
The good news for Venus is that she’s capable of preventing Muguruza from dictating the match. It starts with her serve: Williams’ win percentage when she makes her first-serve has consistently been over 80% this tournament. She’s also been making them at close to a 70% rate. Muguruza will be hard-pressed to get her offense going if Williams continues to serve well on Saturday. And on a similar note, Venus’ return of serve will be just as key. Williams has won 42% of her return points this tournament. That may not be a remarkable figure, but it could be good enough to get a break or two against Muguruza, who’s not known to have a huge serve.
Tough match to call, but I think Venus will do enough to prevent Muguruza from finding her groove. I’ll take her to win in three sets.
Now over to the men. The odds are heavily in Federer’s favor, as they should be. He’s 30-2 on the year and he’s looking to join Bjorn Borg as only the second male player to win Wimbledon without dropping a set. How does Cilic even stand a chance?
Well, he’s got a glimmer of hope thanks to his serve. Cilic is one of the most dominant servers on tour, as evidenced by his 127 aces this tournament (Federer, for the record, has 60). His serve has even given Federer trouble in the past, too. At last year’s Wimbledon, Federer needed to rally from two sets down to oust Cilic in the quarters. And at the 2014 U.S. Open, Cilic pulled a major upset by defeating Federer in straight sets.
Unfortunately for Cilic, his serve alone won’t be enough on Sunday. Federer’s simply the more well-rounded player, and he’s less prone to mistakes than Cilic, who has made over 6.5 unforced errors per set compared to only 4.5 for Federer during the tournament. It’s also a mistake to overlook Federer’s serve. He too wins close to 80% of his first-services.
The seventh-seeded Croat hasn’t played anyone remotely comparable to Federer during his run to the final. So the best thing I can say about his chances is that I think he will steal a set. But that will merely prove to be a temporary interruption to Federer’s coronation on Sunday.