Thursday, June 02, 2011

2011 FRENCH OPEN: Men's Semifinals Preview

Rafael Nadal ESP (1) vs. Andy Murray GBR (4). The 5-time defending champion played his best tennis of the tournament against the only man who has ever beaten him at Roland Garros, Robin Soderling, in the quarterfinals, dismissing the Swede in straight sets 6-4 6-1 7-6(3)Nadal now has a 43-1 lifetime record on the clay courts in Paris, an astonishing 97.7% winning percentage. For that reason alone, one must consider him the favorite in his semifinal with Andy Murray.
Murray looked good in his 7-6(2) 7-5 6-2 against Juan Ignacio Chela in the quarterfinals after surviving a near-death experience in his 5-set tussle with Viktor Troicki in the Round of 16. Head-to-head Nadal leads Murray 10-4 in the career matches, 3-2 in majors, and 3-0 on clay. Murray won a set when they played in Monaco this year and served for the match against Novak Djokovic in the Rome semifinals so his clay bona fides are legitimate. All that being said, Murray has almost no chance to win this match on Friday unless he plays the match of his life (which he has found it difficult to do on the big stage of  the 3 major finals he's been in to date as well as the 2010 Wimbledon semifinal) and Nadal plays some of his worst tennis. Nadal is playing to reach his 6th final at Roland Garros in order to try and match Bjorn Borg's all-time record, and Murray is trying to reach his 1st final in Paris. The difference is clear. PREDICTION: Nadal. 

Roger Federer SUI (3) vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (2)"The best player of today against the best player in history," says World #1 Rafael Nadal. This will be the most mouth-wateringly epic major semifinal since the last mouth-wateringly epic major semifinal these two played at the 2011Australian Open and the one before that at the 2010 US Open where Federer had two match points and lost. There's no question that there is a lot of history on the line, but this time it is mostly on the shoulders of the 24-year-old, not the 29-year-old holder of 16-major singles titles. First, there's the amazing winning streak of 41 matches won in a row in 2011 (I think counting the two Davis Cup matches he won at the end of the year when you don't get prize money or ranking points for those wins is simply silly). If Djokovic wins on Friday he will equal John McEnroe's open era record of the best ever start to a tennis season. Second, the World #1 ranking is in play and for the first time since 2004 someone other than Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer could reach the top spot. Becoming #1 is always a momentous point in any great player's career, and this achievement would be one he has had to wait for, for a long, long time.
Third, Djokovic is trying to reach his first ever non-hard court major final, to prove that he is really an all-surfaces player. Djokovic reached this point through a walkover when handsome trickster Fabio Fognini withdrew. Federer reached his record 26th major semifinal in the last 7 years by dismissing a still-improving Gael Monfils in front of a rowdy Parisian crowd 6-4 6-3 7-6(3). Federer is in the unusual position of trying to be the spoiler, but he appears to be relishing the challenge. Federer has a 13-9 career head-to-head edge over Djokovic, including 2-1 on clay but a scant 4-3 in majors. However, the Swiss Great is playing some of his best tennis this year and has not dropped a set. He is also the last person to have beaten Novak Djokovic in an ATP Tour match, on Saturday November 27, 2010, exactly 188 days ago. That streak will last a little longer. PREDICTION:  Djokovic

1 comment:

Ampula said...

Finally Mad P., predictions that make sense again! You're right for starting the Novak/Fed commentary off with a Nadal quote...nice foreshadowing! lc


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