Four Men Left In Wimbledon's Semifinal Play

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal will face Andy Murray in the semifinals Friday. In the other match, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will face second-seeded Novak Djokovic. USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan talks to Renee Montagne about this weekend's matches at Wimbledon.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Let's turn to Wimbledon now. The women's' finals are tomorrow. Russia's Maria Sharapova hasn't made it this far at the All England tennis club since she last won in 2004. She's up against a new finalist from the Czech Republic. And today it's semifinals for the men. USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan has been following the matches and joins us from London.

Good morning.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Columnist, USA Today): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Ok. So the men's lineup, it's the usual suspects mostly. But there is one missing suspect, I guess you could say.

Ms. BRENNAN: That's right. The London newspapers were calling them the Fab Four. But the problem is only three of them made it. The one who didn't we have to mention - Roger Federer, six-time Wimbledon champion. He was upset by France's big hitting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 12th seed, in the quarter finals.

Tsongas now moves on, plays second seeded Novak Djokovic in the first men's semifinal today, followed by number one Rafael Nadal playing number four Andy Murray of Scotland, the new great hope of the British people.

In that first semi, if Djokovic wins and reaches Sunday's finals he would insure he would become the new world number one. He's had a terrific year so far, Djokovic has, only losing once in 47 matches. That was to Federer in the French Open semifinal.

Tsonga, though, is a formidable opponent. He's built like a linebacker. He bears a striking resemblance to Mohammad Ali. And he actually has defeated Djokovic five of the seven times they've played in their careers. It's been said of Tsonga that you've never heard the sound of a tennis ball being hit so hard as when he hits a forehand.

MONTAGNE: Well, you just mentioned Andy Murray, obviously, as part of that lineup. It's been 34 years since a player from the U.K. has won a Wimbledon singles title and 75 since a British man has done it. Can Andy Murray put British fans out of their misery?

Ms. BRENNAN: Boy is this nation wishing and hoping and dreaming for that. It's not easy being a British player at Wimbledon over this fortnight. The pressure's tremendous, the tabloids, the photos. But Andy Murray certainly seems to have the resume to do it. Three times a runner-up in Grand Slam events, two Australian Opens, one U.S. Open. And now he's made the semis at Wimbledon three years in a row.

Problem is Murray gets down on himself. He's a dower Scot. He's always chastising himself for something or other on the court. But that will be counterbalanced by the shouts of come on, Andy, reverberating not only through center court but all of the U.K. this afternoon. Can Murray answer the call and rise to the challenge? We're going to find out today.

MONTAGNE: Ok. We'll let's turn to tomorrow's challenges for the women. It would seem to be a match-up between the experienced veteran and the relative newcomer.

Ms. BRENNAN: That's right. Maria Sharapova, 24, 2004 Wimbledon champ, returning from shoulder surgery that really left everyone wondering if she'd ever come back good as new, versus Nadia�Petrova. She's 21, a rare lefty in the women's game, from the Czech Republic. Those who know their tennis - lefty, Czech Republic - remind anyone of a name from the past? Martina�Navratilova, who happens to be Petra's hero.

This is the fifth seed Sharapova, someone who has won three Grand Slam finals, versus someone who's never been in this position before. But Sharapova's trying to come back after winning Wimbledon seven years ago. So it's a very compelling story in the women's final.

MONTAGNE: Well, just though, very briefly, also compelling, maybe in a negative way, is there are no Americans that have made it that far. No Williams sisters.

Ms. BRENNAN: Right. For the first time since 1913 the last eight remaining women at Wimbledon all were European. Why is that? Some have suggested that they're hungrier, they work harder than Western youngsters. But the reality is it's a global game.

And you wonder where are the Americans? Well, Sharapova's lived in the United States since she was seven. And two of the other three semifinalists also live in the United States. They may not be born in the U.S., but they end up playing their tennis there.

MONTAGNE: Christine, thanks very much.

Ms. BRENNAN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: USA Today's sports columnist Christine Brennan speaking to us from London.

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