W: Order of Play for July 2, 2010—Men’s Semifinals

July 1, 2010

The men’s semifinals at Wimbledon is set to take place on Friday. Former champ Rafael Nadal will face Andy Murray, while Novak Djokovic will take on Tomas Berdych.

For the complete order of play for Friday, click the link below.

Order of Play for July 2, 2010.

W: Berydch and Djokovic Look Ahead to Semifinal Clash

July 1, 2010

Novak Djokovic in quarter final action Wimbledon Tennis Day 9. London. 30.06.10 Photo By Fred Mullane Fotosports International UK ONLY Photo via Newscom

Former Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, and Czech power-hitter Tomas Berdych shared their thoughts on their upcoming semifinal battles at Wimbledon on Friday.

For Berdych, the 24-year-old has enjoyed his best year to date, which has included reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros, and the finals in Miami.

“It’s going to be similar matches as the match against Murray I played in Roland Garros where, you know, we played before like really long time ago, and then the match is completely like we met for the first time,” said Berdych.

“Yeah, I think it’s gonna be really, really tough one. I think we both change a lot. Of course you need to have some confidence to get to the semifinal, so I think it’s going to be really same for both of us. I’m looking forward to that match.”

Reaching his second career Wimbledon semifinal, Djokovic holds a 2-0 career head-to-head lead over Berdych.

“He’s a big server and he has powerful groundstrokes. Obviously, his weapon is his forehand. Plays a lot of flat shots,” said Djokovic.

“So, uhm, he’s played semis of French Open. He’s got some great results in last couple of months. So he’s one of the toughest players to play against I guess lately.

“I’m gonna have to be patient and wait for the chances. Obviously, both of us, we gonna have a great motivation to proceed to the next round and finals. For him, that would be a first finals. For me, third.

“But, still, you know, I would give everything to play finals in Wimbledon.”

Regardless of his performance on Friday, Djokovic will return to the No. 2 ranking on Monday, while Berdych could reach the world No. 7 ranking if he wins the title.

Quotes from Wimbledon.org.

W: Berydch Frowns On Federer’s Post Match Comments

July 1, 2010

July 01, 2010 - 06113294 date 30 06 2010 Copyright imago Hasenkopf Wimbledon 2010 Sports Tennis ITF Grand Slam Tournament Roger Federer SUI congratulated the Winner Tomas Berdych CZE Tennis men All England Championships ATP Tour London Wimbledon Vdig 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd.

After ousting six-time champion Roger Federer from Wimbledon, Czech Tomas Berdych told the assembled media that he thought the Swiss’ post match comments were poor at best.

“I don’t know if he just looking for some excuses after the match or something like that.  I mean, it happened to all of us,” said Berdych. “You can say that he was unlucky or you can say that maybe the opponent was a little bit better and he just won the big points against him.”
Addressing Federer’s claim that “he didn’t win the big points,” Berdych reacted by saying that his game was a cut above.

“Okay. I mean, yeah, maybe you can take it for both ways. You can say that he was unlucky or you can say that maybe the opponent was a little bit better and he just won the big points against him. In his position, then he lost the match,” said Berdych.

“You know, I think, yeah, he’s a great player. I mean, but still, I mean, when I just read some newspapers in the morning, I was not surprised, but, you know, to heard something from him to the way that he’s fine, nothing is bothering him. When we played the last match, I lost. But last time in Wimbledon, I won pretty easily. You know, stuff like that.

“You know, I saw him quite first time from him the reactions like that. So whatever. I’m in different position. I’m just enjoying the win today, and this is just everything behind me.”

Berdych will next face Novak Djokovic for a place in his first ever Grand Slam final. The Czech bomber also advanced to the final four at the French Open last month.
Quotes from Wimbledon.org.

Wimbledon 2010: Men’s Semifinal Preview

June 30, 2010

Novak Djokovic in quarter final action Wimbledon Tennis Day 9. London. 30.06.10 Photo By Fred Mullane Fotosports International UK ONLY Photo via Newscom

This year’s Wimbledon semifinal bracket will be without a familiar face for the first time since 2003. Roger Federer’s stunning loss to Tomas Berdych was without question a landmine that left the remaining men in the field with an equal opportunity of taking home the title.

Who would have thought that of the top four seeds, Federer’s name would be inconspicuously absent come Friday? Dropping down to No. 3 in the world when Monday’s new rankings are released, Federer will have an unfamiliar armchair view of this year’s final four.

What are the chances that he’ll even watch?

Berdych’s first Wimbledon semifinal will be followed through a microscope when he faces Novak Djokovic, while 2008 champion Rafael Nadal will go toe-to-toe against top British hopeful Andy Murray.

All credit must be given to the fighting foursome who remain alive in the hunt for the most elusive title the sport has to offer.

Will we see a British male in the finals for the first time since 1936, or will Nadal place himself in prime position for his eighth Slam title?

Will Djokovic salvage his unsatisfactory year, or will Berdych finally dismiss his underachieving label?

The pairings have been made, and now all that remains is a few thoughts on how it may all go down.

Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych

Djokovic leads the pair’s head-to-head series, 2-0.

What we have here is two men that weren’t supposed to make it this far. For Djokovic, his form entering Wimbledon provided little in the way of a resounding result. Dusted early and often throughout the season, Djokovic had battled his technique, coaching changes, and of course mother nature. Suffering nine losses before entering the tournament, Djokovic’s progress to the semifinals is by far his best result of 2010.

Will the new world No. 2 have a enough to blindside the potent arsenal of the new Czech bomber?

The Bird man could be deemed the new Robin Soderling of this season. Reaching the Miami final in March, Berdych advanced to the final four at the French Open, before plowing through the field in London.

Defeating Federer for a second straight time on Wednesday, Berdych solidified himself as a big match player. But will the daunting Czech have enough mental fortitude to advance to his first career Grand Slam final?

Djokovic will undoubtedly hold the experience card between the two. Capturing the 2008 Australian Open, Djokovic has also reached seven other Grand Slam semifinals. Taking out the competent challenge of Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth-round, Djokovic benefited from not facing Andy Roddick, thanks in large part to Yen-Hsun Lu.

We are all well aware of Djokovic’s ability to go AWOL during close matches, but those loses have usually consisted of him being the underdog—excluding his Aussie Open meltdown this year against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

With that being said, one would have to favor Djokovic because of his wherewithal to grind it out. Berdych may have his machine gun groundstrokes ready to paint the lines, but Djokovic’s defensive ability will pay dividends when it gets close.

I’m not totally ruling out Berdych in this contest, for the primary reason that he seems to be finally enjoying himself on Tour. He’s under a calm aura of confidence at the moment, and his game has reaped the rewards.

Once bound to a cold robotic stare, Berdych now embodies the persona and execution of a formidable Grand Slam contender.

All in all, this match will come down to Djokovic’s experience and defense versus Berdych’s power and eagerness.

If recent results have taught us anything, experience—moreso at Wimbledon—usually wins out.

Pick: Djokovic in five sets

Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray

Nadal leads the pair’s head to head series, 7-3.

The bottom half of the draw was filled to the brim when this contest was confirmed. Pitting two of the fan favorites against one other in the marquee match up of the tournament, Nadal and Murray will be the talk of London come Friday.

For Murray, he’s tied his best ever showing at Wimbledon. Losing a close five setter to Roddick last year, Murray has lost only one set en route to the semifinals. The Brit continues to have the weight of Nation’s expectations on his shoulders, but for one reason or another (insert World Cup frenzy here) the pressure has been less this year than before.

We know how much this match means to Murray, and with Federer out of the way, the time couldn’t be better for a title march.

However, Murray does have a determined chap in his way, one who was never taught the meaning of giving anyone an opportunity that they haven’t earned.

Bidding for his second career Euro Slam, Nadal continues to prove that his trials and tribulations of last year are behind him. Dispatching of Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals, Nadal’s knees and focus were spot on against the Swede.

Using his crosscourt forehand and slice serve to great affect, Nadal’s crosscourt backhand will have to improve when he faces Murray.

Again, history and experience will play a big part in this one. Murray has proven that he can defeat Nadal at the hard-court Majors, but he’s come up short on the slower surfaces. Nadal did defeat Murray during their lone Wimbledon match, but Nadal was in untouchable form during his 2008 campaign.

The Spaniard still remains close to his best, and his variety driven game is better suited to grass. Although Murray’s game consists of a great deal of craft and artistry, Nadal’s arsenal holds a better slice and far more topspin.

Nadal will also hold the advantage in the forehand and power department, while Murray’s serve produces slightly more pop.

There’s no doubt that this is a tough one to call, but considering that Nadal has had to battle more than Murray during the event—that’s never a negative for Nadal—the Spaniard will have the confidence in his shots to fall back on.

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut gave us the longest match of the event, but Nadal and Murray could very well partake in the best match of the year.

Settle in, turn off all mobile devices, and get the popcorn ready bright and early.

I’ve gone against Murray in his previous two matches—Murray fans can thank me later—and if that’s an indicator as to what the result of this match is going to be, then I’ll stay with my initial pick before the fortnight began and choose the current world No. 1 and tournament second seed.

Pick: Nadal in five sets

Federer to Fall Down to No. 3 After Wimbledon Defeat

June 30, 2010

LONDON, June 30, 2010 Switzerland's Roger Federer reacts during the men's singles 4th round match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships in London, Britain, June 30, 2010. Federer lost 1-3. (Xinhua/Zeng Yi.

After his shocking four set defeat to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon on Thursday, top seed Roger Federer will find himself in unfamiliar territory when Monday’s rankings are released.

Losing his championship points from last year, Federer will drop to No. 3 on the computer for the first time since November 10, 2003.

Failing to win a tournament since capturing his 16th Grand Slam event in Australian to begin the season, Federer said that he will “take the next two week’s off,” before resuming his training.

The Swiss star is next slated to see action at the Toronto Masters 1000 event in Canada.

Wimbledon Day 10 Blog: The Dawn of a New Day

June 30, 2010

LONDON, June 30, 2010 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic celebrates after the men's singles 4th round match against Switzerland's Roger Federer at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships in London, Britain, June 30, 2010. Berdych won 3-1 and entered the semi-final. (Xinhua/Zeng Yi.

Wimbledon—London, England

The departure of six-time champ Roger Federer from The Wimbledon Championships today could in fact be a telling tale for the remainder of the Swiss’ career.

Not only did the former world No. 1 lose before the finals of the event for the first time since 2002—he will also lose even more ground in the rankings race on Monday when he slips down to world No. 3.

Lacking in the MPH department off of his groundstrokes, Federer never recovered after losing his serve in the seventh game of the first set. Although the top seed managed to scrape through and take the second set, his attempt at tying Pete Sampras’ seven Wimbledon titles will have to wait until next year.

What was perhaps the most astonishing part of Federer’s loss to Tomas Berdych was the low scoring of each set. Considering that both players hold stellar deliveries (especially Federer), it became perplexing to not see a 7-5 or 7-6 scoreline.

Acting a tad miffed during his post match presser, Federer quickly made sure that the assembled media was aware of why he was defeated.

“Well, when you’re hurting (Federer was struggling with a back and thigh issue), it’s just a combination of many things. You know, you just don’t feel as comfortable. You can’t concentrate on each and every point because you do feel the pain sometimes. And, uhm, yeah, then you tend to play differently than the way you want to play,” commented Federer.

“Under the circumstances I think I played a decent match, you know. But I’ve been feeling bad for the last two, three matches now. It’s just not good and healthy to play under these kind of conditions, you know.”

I’m really not sure that Federer could blame his poor back, or thigh injury for his loss. Berdych simply played in his comfort zone for a majority of the contest, while Federer’s game was not up to the challenge. There is no doubt that Berdych played a whale of a match in prevailing. Striking 12 aces in total, Berdych’s ace count was overshadowed by the placement of his serve. Keeping Federer from throwing his momentum into his returns, Berdych only lost his serve on one of four occasions.

Losing serve four times, Federer’s shot at victory was halted by his inability to consolidate any sort of a lead. If anything, it appeared that Federer’s footwork and proficiency around the court was a shell of what we’ve seen in the past.

I suppose Federer’s early round struggles throughout the event were a precursor to his defeat against Berdych. Surviving a first-round dogfight, Federer was pushed to a four-set victory in his second match. Although the Swiss pulled it together quite nicely in the third and fourth-rounds, his level of play was never at its historic best.

Will the Swiss’ success for the remainder of the season be affected by an early loss at his most cherished tournament? I wouldn’t be surprised if a repeat of the latter stages of his ‘08 campaign weren’t coming right up.

Losing to Berdych in Miami during the spring, Federer admitted that the Czech’s form had become more consistent over the past 12 months.

“I think he’s been able to play more consistent last year or so, and I was just not able to defend well enough and I didn’t come up with the good stuff when I had to,” Federer.

Part of Federer’s on-court frustration was in fact related to Berdych’s new found consistency. In a day and age where the world of pro tennis hosts its share of ball-bashing specialists, Berdych by no means is exempt from that group. However, to the Czech’s credit, he’s finally figured out how to obtain the best of both worlds between power and consistency—enjoy the moment, and let the ball rip.

“Yeah, I think, you know, it’s many things. First of all, it’s that you win a couple of matches in the beginning of the year, and then you get a confidence. It keeps going and going,” said Berdych.

“I mean, it’s not only like about last two weeks. It’s already start I would say maybe, I don’t know, in the United States, Indian Wells, Miami. So it’s quite far ago.

“You know, it’s many things. You get more and more experience. I get, you know, a little bit older to be, you know, more focused, you know, mentally stronger than before. That’s what you need.

“But it’s many things together, so I’m very happy that it works. They are all together like in one pack. It works pretty well.”

“All together in one pack” apparently is simply all that Berdych needs.

Already reaching the final four at Roland Garros, Berdych will now have an opportunity to continue his stellar year against his next opponent Novak Djokovic.

Berdych will once again play the role of the underdog against Djokovic, but one would certainly favor his chances at this point.

The dawn of a new day has finally settled over the hollowed grounds of Wimbledon. It took eight years to make it happen, but something tells me that there’s a little more magic left to be discovered before the end of Sunday’s final.

W: Tsonga and Berdych Reach Quarterfinals

June 28, 2010

The powerful duo of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon on Monday with respective fourth-round victories.

Battling countryman Julien Benneteau on Court 12, Tsonga prevailed in four entertaining sets 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Displaying his deft net game for the engaged outer court crowd, Tsonga gained revenge over Benneteau for a loss he sustained in Marseille earlier this year.

Never reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, Tsonga will next face the winner of Andy Murray or Sam Querrey.

Berdych, who made the semifinals of the French Open last month, survived a serving duel against German Daniel Brands 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5, 6-3.

Reaching the finals of the Miami event in March, Berdych will next face top seed Roger Federer.

Federer won a clean cut straight set affair over Jurgen Melzer earlier on Center Court.

RG: Tomas Berdych Semifinal Press Conference

June 4, 2010

Q. When do you think the match turned? In the beginning of the fourth, or…
TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, I don’t know if well, I can find, well, like a moment when it turned to the other side. But I think actually the very important moment was in the first set when I lost my serve.
Yeah, I think that game was not good from my side, you know. I made really two easy mistakes, lost easy my serve, you know, and I think that that was very important.
Because then I could stay with him and then had a couple of chances to make a break, you know, finish the first set on my side, and then all the match could be different.

Q. Were you a little bit nervous in the first set when you were getting on the court?
TOMAS BERDYCH: No, just I was really trying to enjoy it, because, you know, all the nervous or nerves, whatever, you know.
It’s the reason of, you know, the nice results to be the in the semifinals and enjoying the time to go on court. That’s the payout for the result.

Q. You hit very hard. Does he hit harder than you?
TOMAS BERDYCH: I don’t know. I didn’t see the game from, you know, from the stands. Then you can judge it from there. So it’s maybe gonna be question for all of you who just saw it from the stands.
And, yeah, he play well, he play his game he play aggressive, and serving well.
That’s what he did. Just won.

Q. He seemed to get a little nervous in the second and third set and you played better. I guess it was disappointing that you couldn’t carry that. You seemed to be on top of him for quite a while there. Must be disappointed you weren’t able to keep that going.
TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, of course you are disappointed when you are from the court and you are not the winner.
Well, I don’t see it as a big, you know, big reason of the match or big point in the match, because, you know, just the match is really long. You know, you get a little bit nervous, yeah, but that’s how it is, you know.
Yeah, I mean, maybe I should yeah, as I said, you know, I shouldn’t leave my serve in the first set and could be different.

Q. You played Robin now eight times. Last time in Miami you beat him pretty easily. What do you think is so good about his game now? Or do you think it’s that good? I mean, he beat you now 3 2, but what in Robin’s game has improved most?
TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, I know that you want to heard something different, but I will say that only we play on the hardcourt and here is the clay. So that was the difference.

Q. What memories will you keep from this French Open? Is there any special moment that you will remember for a long time?
TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, I mean well, I hope it’s not gonna be for that long time, because I hope to do some other and good hopefully better results somewhere. Maybe here again, but whatever, you know.
But so far it was a great two weeks for me, and, well, it’s gonna be every match, you know. Every round I won here, it’s a great moment. Every time you win the match then you really enjoy it. You are happy. So it was the best moments for me so far.
You know, every time, even if you win like five, six matches and then you’re not gonna leave from the tournament as a winner, then the last one gives you really, you know, like kind of big hit that you still have something left on the place.
You have to go back home, you know, practice hard again, and prepare for the next one.

Q. Sometimes guys you beat come in here, and we ask them about what it’s like playing you. They can get quite poetic describing how you hit the ball and the power you have. Tell us a little bit about Robin’s game and the kind of ball he hits.
TOMAS BERDYCH: Yeah, I think it’s gonna be the same. I’m gonna be in the side of those guys who’s gonna play against me, you know. He’s yeah, I’m gonna repeat the same. He’s playing really aggressive, you know. That’s the style what he likes, serving quick serves.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what you can see from him on the court.

Q. Is it a heavier ball than some other guys hit, or is his serve significantly tougher?
TOMAS BERDYCH: I don’t know. Maybe he’s doing it well, he’s doing it a little bit better than the others, you know. He’s in the finals. Yeah, he’s doing quite well.
That’s his style what he likes to play. That’s what he’s doing on the court. He’s winning.

Q. What do you think about Robin’s chances in the final?
TOMAS BERDYCH: Yeah, well, you know, we still waiting for his opponent for the final. If he’s gonna play against Rafa, you know, he’s the only one who beat him here, so I think he’s got really big chance.

Q. Two things: Did your legs get a little tired in the fifth set? Did you lose a little conditioning? Secondly, in a different way, talk some more about what you think specifically you can take from this tremendous run you had here for your game and what you’ll try and learn from this.
TOMAS BERDYCH: Yeah, so the first thing is, yeah, it could be a little bit. You know, it was a little bit for my serve, you know. I lost a little bit the just a little bit of power for my first serve. Then like the movement and rhythm was not that optimal as the beginning of the match.
This is the reason that we play on clay, you know. Because for me, it’s really hard and just taking so much energy, you know, for me to play on this slow surface.
You know, that’s just show I need to go back home, work hard again, and just be ready for next year clay court season, and, you know, be better than this year.
The other thing is, yeah, it’s just gives me you know, every match gives me a lot of confidence until the last one. That’s what I just need to keep it up, you know, just have all those positive memories and, you know, try my best in another weeks and another tournaments.
They just show that I can play with all those guys, you know, I can beat all of them. Yeah, just keep going and waiting for another chance.

Q. Is your dream to win a Slam? Can you achieve your dream?
TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, of course. I mean, that’s why I’m here, you know. I’m coming to every Grand Slam and trying my best, you know. So far it was the semifinal. Maybe I would say better lose now than in the final.
So, you know, getting some experience. I’m still quite young and have some time to play a couple of those tournaments. You know, if sometimes, would be nice.

Courtesy of ASAP.

Roland Garrros Day 13 Blog: A Tall Order Answered

June 4, 2010

Robin Soderling of Sweden reacts after winning his semi-final match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

Roland Garros—Paris, France

It used to be that Robin Soderling would enter a Grand Slam event with the intention of a winning a few rounds, before packing up his belongings and heading off to the next ritzy locale on Tour. There was never really any focus or emphasis placed on his results; the journey of becoming a professional player appeared more than rewarding, while building his legacy remained low on the totem pole. But, as we’ve witnessed at this year’s French Open, Soderling’s belief and desire to be the best, has now become the forefront of everything that he stands for.

Ousting an almost mirror image off himself today in Court Philippe Chatrier, Soderling battled back from a two sets to one deficit to defeat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Absorbing the blistering power of his Czech opponent, Soderling utilized his experience from last year’s event to fight into the finals. In a match that was filled with numerous breaks of serve, Soderling’s off backhand return was perhaps his best weapon on the day. I’ve always found that the off backhand return on the deuce side was never really a shot that could be defended; it’s a surprise shot to say the least, and because a majority of the players on Tour hit their forehands more effectively out of their backhand corners, the utilization of this shot also provides great dividends.

Striking 62 winners (20 more than Berdych), Soderling’s second serve was also more potent on the day. With both players averaging 204 KPH on their first serves, Soderling provided 12 more KPH to his second serve throughout the contest.

Appearing tighter than usual to begin the contest, Soderling’s dip in form during the second and third sets was highlighted by losing his serve on three occasions. After fighting through a tough fourth set, Soderling began the fifth set with an early break, before losing his serve in the ensuing game.

From that point on, the pair held their deliveries until the seventh game of the set. Aided by a bad bounce off of the service line, Soderling eased a one-handed backhand up-the-line to set up triple break point. Breaking serve two points later, Soderling would win the final three games of the match to advance.

Showing some rare emotion on match point after Berdych sailed a backhand wide, the relieved Swede elevated his status (forever) as one the best clay-court players in the world.

I know it’s a little strange to connect Soderling’s name with prominent clay-court results. His movement is certainly not the best out there, and his long chopping swings, coupled with his lack of soft hands, pretty much eliminates drop shots from taking place. His cloud disturbing ball toss is subject to an errant throw now and again, while his technique on the volley will not be featured in any coaching manuals. However, with all that can be criticized in the Swede’s game, his deafening power and ability to believe that he can defeat anyone in world, have without question assisted him towards his rise to the world’s top ten.

Having absolutely no trouble in playing the villain on Tour, Soderling now finds himself in a similar position to last year. He has already defeated the defending champ in Roger Federer, and now eagerly awaits a rematch with four-time champ Rafael Nadal.

Setting up an enticing battle on Sunday, Soderling was very straight forward when sharing his preference between facing Nadal or Jurgen Melzer in the championship match.

“I prefer to play Nadal,” said Soderling during his on-court interview.

Soderling’s definitive on-court answer was interesting in the sense that he’s not only looking to win his first ever Grand Slam title, but he’s also looking to defeat the best clay-court of all time in the process. Many other players would have opted for an easier match against Melzer, while taking the title anyway they could. But what Soderling has exuded throughout the past twelve months, and what he has proved during the last year is that irrespective of his opponent on the other side of the net, he believes that the outcome of his result remains on his strings.

We’re not sure yet if we have a another addition to the short list of recent Grand Slam champions on our hands, but Soderling has certainly made the idea more plausible.

Landing in yet another final of a tournament that many felt he would lose early, Soderling has answered the call that has been trust in front of him, and passed with insurmountable power.

Soderling’s quest at Slam glory is not quite complete, and although he defeated Nadal last year in Paris, to do so again this year would potentially be one of the greatest achievements in the history of the sport.

RG: Men’s Semifinal Preview

June 2, 2010

ROBIN SODERLING

Roland Garros—Paris, France

We’ve found ourselves in quite the predicament at this year’s French Open. Three of the top four seeds have been defeated, with the perennial favorite once again shinning through. Barring the Eiffel Tower crashing down on Chatrier Court, it appears that Rafael Nadal stands as the clear and present danger to capture his fifth title.

But what about the rest of the contenders? Do they really have zero to no shot of any podium glory?

Robin Soderling upheld his giant killer label by overpowering Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, while Tomas Berdych has not dropped a set in advancing to his first career final four.

And if a happy-go-lucky, slap-shot Austrian does it for you, then look no further than Jurgen Melzer. Ousting Novak Djokovic in five thrilling sets in the quarterfinals, the 29-year-old Vienna native has just entered the peak of his career.

Not taking anything away from Nadal at this point—but the “sure pick” Spaniard may have a thing or two to consider before hoisting the Coupe de Musketeer on Sunday.

Let’s now take a look at Friday’s final four match-ups:

Rafael Nadal vs. Jurgen Melzer

Nadal leads the pair’s head-to-head 2-0, while never dropping a set against Melzer.

Surviving a few testy moments against Nicolas Almagro, Nadal seems to have finally put to rest his fourth-round loss of last year. Chasing down unreachable balls throughout his first five matches, the Nadal’s form appears comparable to 2005-2008.

I think it’s safe to say that we know what we’re going to get from Nadal come Friday, but what about Melzer? The unlikely latter round participant has not only come forward under the radar, but perhaps under the confines of the facility.

Possessing a dynamic blend of serve and drop shot tennis, Melzer displayed his court guile in overcoming a two set deficit against Djokovic. Once known for his mental frailty, Melzer can now lay claim to overcoming some of the best clay-courters in the world in their own backyard.

However, Melzer’s 15 minutes (or five rounds) of fame could be headed towards a shattering end. The 29-year-old won’t have fresh legs on his side, and considering that he’s never got more than four games against Nadal in a set, the chances of him pulling a fast one on the Mallorcan will be rare.

I feel like a broken record in saying this, but if Melzer can’t win the first set, it will be virtually impossible for him to win.

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if this match ended in a retirement from Melzer, but here’s hoping he finishes the match and can provide some glimpses of that vivid smile he produced after he defeated Djokovic.

Pick: Nadal in straight sets

Robin Soderilng vs. Tomas Berdych

Soderling leads the pair’s head-to-head 5-3.

Tall, dark and powerful, that’s what you’re going to get when these two face off. Bulldozing through the field in Paris this year, Soderling and Berdych are responsible for preventing Federer and Murray from their scheduled semifinal clash.

There’s nothing these two can’t do on court, and they’ve shown that their size does not hinder their court speed at all.

I was present for the pair’s last meeting in Miami earlier this year; a match that Berdych won 6-2, 6-2. Before we take that loss by Soderling into consideration, the lanky Swede was quick to remind everyone that he dismissed Berdych by that same score in their match before last.

When analyzing this encounter, I’d say that Berdych has better hands around the net, with Soderling holding a touch more power. Believe it or not, Soderling also moves better on the clay than Berdych, and if it rains during their match on Friday, those conditions will favor the Swede.

Berdych seems to be enjoying himself a tad more on court, while Soderling is vindictively focused on reaching the finals in order to prove that last year’s result was not a fluke. There’s no doubt that Soderling has already accomplished that much.

When it’s all said and done between these two, look for the tally to be high in the winners errors and ace categories. I don’t really believe that the first set is as crucial in this match as it has been in others, and the victor will be determined by the player who can employ his first strike tennis more effectively.

Although Berdych has yet to drop a set, I have this feeling that La Sod knows the Chatrier Court far better than Berdych.

That will always count for something.

Pick: Soderling in four sets

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