Could one ask for a better, more star-filled Final Four at Indian Wells today? Apologies to Novak Djokovic, but with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick the Indian Wells semifinals features the four biggest global names in men’s tennis right now. I just hope it lives up to the billing. And I think it can.
Interestingly, I think all four enter the semifinals not on their strongest of footing. Top seed Nadal wasn’t 100% on his game yesterday but still managed to hammer Juan Martin del Potro 6-2, 6-4. Scary.
Roddick punked Djokovic for a second straight time, and while Andy played very solid tennis, it was Novak really doing himself in by completely coming apart at the seams. Novak’s going to have to do a lot of soul search after this latest loss, and the pattern holds, when the big boyz show up, Novak’s not winning a title.
On Thursday, Federer was lucky to avoid a third set against Fernando Verdasco who once again showed his nerves failing to capitalize on set points. Federer didn’t looked especially sharp either in his earlier wins during the week.
And while Murray is the only player yet to drop a set, he hasn’t really beaten anyone of significance.
Now I’m not saying they are all playing badly, hardly, but they’ve all seen better days, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe they are saving their best for last, and saving it up for this weekend.
Onto the matchups.
First, it’s Federer and Murray. Murray leads Raja 5-2 in their head-to-head, winning three straight (four if you want to include that exo at the start of the year) since his U.S. Open setback. Oddly, in four of his five losses to Murray, Federer actually won the first set. So maybe Roger should try “tanking” the first set as he joked about the other day.
For me, the jury is still out on Murray. I mentioned he had a pretty cushy draw and given his recent virus and his lack of play, I’m not convinced he’s at 100% yet. If he is, he’ll beat Roger meaning I think this match rests on Murray’s racquet. But I just don’t think Andy’s in peak form so I’m picking Federer in this one. Plus, if it stays hot I think that also helps Federer.
In the second semifinal, it’s a rematch of a last four encounter from 2007 IW between Nadal and Roddick. In that contest Nadal pretty much breezed past Andy if I remember correctly, and I think the Spaniard wins again today. But it’s going to be tougher. Nadal has won 10 of his last 12 sets against the American and while I think the courts favor Nadal, Roddick is probably playing with a little more confidence, just enough to keep it closer than before and maybe even enough to sneak a set out.
For Andy to do that, he’s absolutely going to have to serve huge and stay within the court. Hanging well behind the baseline works against guys who are spraying errors, but if Nadal’s on his game Roddick’s going to be in trouble with that new pusher mentality of his. Andy’s also been volleying really well this week so if he can maintain that level, serve big and crank that forehand then he certainly has a chance.
But in this case the match is really up to Nadal. If Rafa’s playing at his best there’s not much Andy or anyone else for that matter is going to do about it.
So if things go according to my picks, that’ll leave us with a nice Nadal v. Federer clash Sunday. Of course there still a lot of tennis left to be played for that to happen. Let’s just hope it’s good tennis.
And if you are planning to watch either or both matches here in the U.S. during this NCAA March Madness basketball weekend, things are rather sketchy with Fox Sport Net (FSN). While the weekday coverage has been consistent (yes, consistently bad if you will), this weekend with the local and regional sports mixed in, FSN’s tennis schedule has become a crapshoot. So check your local listings.
To watch live online streaming from Indian Wells of the Federer-Murray, Roddick-Nadal matches, click below for a day or a tournament pass from the ATP:
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