Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AUS OPEN 2012: Men's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the Men's Semifinals at the 2012 Australian Open. My predictions for the Women's Semifinals are also available. This year I previously predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly.

Novak Djokovic SRB (1) vs  Andy Murray GBR (4)The World #1 and defending Australian Open champion re-asserted his dominance over the rest of the field by dismissing World #5 David Ferrer in ruthless  fashion in straight sets 6-4 7-6(4) 6-1.
© Ben Solomon/Tennis Australia
The Serbian has won half of his major titles at this venue and is looking in similar top form this year. Also looking good is the Scot Andy Murray who has made it to the Australian Open final for the last two consecutive years. Against 1st time quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori Muray deployed his vast reserves of guile, power and speed to gently demolish the Japanese youngster in straight sets 6-3 6-3 6-1. Murray has been in the Top 4 in the world since 2008 but only in the last year or so has he solidified his status there, reaching the five major semifinals in a row. It is time for him to take the next step, and beating Djokovic in a major final would be that step. Unfortunately, I don't think that is going to happen in Melbourne, but I do believe that Murray will come close, winning at least one set and possibly two. Head to head Murray has a decent 4 wins 6 losses record against Djokovic and ever since his disastrous performance in last year's final has taken his clashes with his contemporary rival extremely seriously. (The two were born one week apart, in 1987.) Murray was on his way to beating Djokovic last summer in the Cincinnati Masters final when the Serbian retired from the match and the two played one of the best matches of the year at the Rome semifinals. On hard courts the head-to-head narrows to 4-all, with all of Murray's victory over Djokovic coming on this surface. Much has been said and implied about Murray's decision to hire Ivan Lendl as a coach, and I do think it is the mental aspect of the game in which Murray needs to demonstrate improvement when playing against the only three people in the world more higher ranked than he is. That being said, after the year Djokovic has just had he is not particularly lacking in the confidence department, as will be made clear by the end of the match. Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic.

Roger Federer SUI (3) vs Rafael Nadal ESP (2)This is the 27th meeting between the two future Hall of Famers who have a staggering 26 major titles between the two of them, with 10-time major winner Nadal famously leading their legendary rivalry 17-9, although 16-time major champion Federer leads 5-4 on hard courts. Oddly, the two have met only once at the Australian Open where Nadal won their 2009 final by racing through the final 2 sets of their 5-set match. That result so devastated Federer that he was reduced to tears during the trophy ceremony and had to be comforted by his opponent, allowing the Swiss great to literally cry on his shoulder.
© Getty Images
Another oddity is that this is only the second time the two have met in the semifinal of a major (the other time was at Roland Garros in 2005 and it was won by Nadal on his way to his first major title of his career). Although the physical match-up between their two styles of play puts Federer at a distinct disadvantage, the primary problem the Swiss player has had in this storied rivalry is the mental dimension. However, since the last time they met the result was a 6-3 6-0 demolition of Nadal that should put the mental edge between these two players at the lowest level it has been in years. Federer just played his 1000th career match (814 wins-186 losses) in dismissing an in-form Juan Martin del Potro in scintillating fashion, 6-4 6-3 6-2. Nadal, on the other hand, played well over 4 hours of grinding tennis to defeat a player 6-7(5) 7-6(6) 6-4 6-3 who has only ever beaten him three times in thirteen meetings. I believe all of these factors will combine to give Federer the edge to reach his 23rd (!) major final. Mad Professah's pick: Federer in 3 or 4 sets or Nadal in 5 sets.

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