Giving tennis more than a shot

Only A Second This Season

 

The Shanghai Rolex Masters quarter-finals were completed this Friday, and set a rare combination of semi-finals between the top four seeds for this season. The only other time it happened in either a Masters 1000 or a Grand Slam, this year, was at the Australian Open.

 

However, it was only fitting that the four best-ranked players in the draw should contend for a place in Sunday’s final, given level of each player this week.

 

[1] Roger Federer vs [3] Andy Murray

 

Photos: Getty Images

 

The top half semi-final will oppose World n° 1 Roger Federer to n° 3 Andy Murray. Already the fourth meeting between the two players this season, it will be the first of them that is not a final, as they met in the definition of Dubaï, Wimbledon, and the London Olympics.

 

To reach the semi-finals, Andy Murray had to overcome a bad day, his crankiness, coughing fits, and Radek Stepanek, not necessarily in that order. Starting the match rather poorly by his standards, whereas his opponent wasn’t missing much, he surrendered his serve and the first set, 4-6, before considerable reducing his number of unforced errors in the second set. He then took advantage of a serious drop of level from the Czech to level the match at one set apiece.

 

In the third set, the Scotsman had a chance to take the lead from the start, but squandered a few break points, only to get broken the very next game. Angry with himself, he broke right back, and from then on, with a better level of play, he put an end to the hopes of a third consecutive upset from Stepanek, prevailing 4-6 6-2 6-3.

 

As for Federer, he was both genial and scrappy when he faced Marin Cilic. Alternating shots of pure poetry with appalling errors, he was lucky, at times, to face an opponent who made even more errors than himself. For a rare time, the Swiss was even unable to close out a match.

 

In the end, no harm done for the World n° 1, who booked his place in the semi-finals with a 6-3 6-4 win over Cilic and will go for a chance to win one of the three Masters 1000 titles that still evade him (along with Monte Carlo and Rome) in a repeat of the 2010 final.

 

Somehow, nevertheless, I think that the Swiss will prevail and reach the final. Murray’s game has not completely convinced me in this tournament, and he hasn’t been feeling well. However, we can be sure that the Scot will fight from start to finish, no matter the result.

 

[2] Novak Djokovic vs [4] Tomas Berdych

 

Photos: Getty Images

 

Both players have been the most convincing during this tournament, and their semi-final should be highly contested, despite the fact that Novak Djokovic leads his head-to-head with Tomas Berdych 9-1, his only defeat coming in 2010, in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

 

To reach the semi-finals, Djokovic showed no mercy to Tommy Haas, even though the first set picked it up just where their incredible Toronto quarter-final match left off. From great rallies to breathtaking shot-making, both players really gave quite a show. However, just like in Toronto, the Serbian proved too strong, even though he had another one of his more frequent wobbles at the time of serving for the match.

 

No harm done in the end for the World n° 2, who reached the semi-finals with a 6-3 6-3 win.

 

Despite the loss, there is a silver lining for Tommy Haas, as his performance this week will put him back in the top 20, he who was ranked 292 at the same date last year.

 

Tomas Berdych, for his part, did not have too many problems in defeating fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman had the trainer over during the match, but it doesn’t excuse his loss, as Berdych was clearly dominating the match. In the end, the Czech prevailed, 6-2 7-6(4).

 

In Saturday’s semi, however, I don’t think there is much that can prevent Djokovic from reaching yet another final. Indeed, Berdych is playing very good tennis, but the Serbian has found his serve again, and when he does, he is nearly unbeatable. Consequently, I stick with my initial prediction of a 1 vs 2 final, but I am sure we will be treated to two very good semi-final matches.

 

The matches will start at 16:30 local for the match opposing Djokovic to Berdych, and not before 20:00 local for the match between Federer and Murray.

 

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