For all the talk of his downfall and decline, I’ll say it bluntly: If Roger Federer loses tomorrow to Andy Roddick on clay it’s then time to firmly push the panic button if you’re Federer.
Federer and Roddick will convene for a 20th time Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Tennis Masters. Federer has won 17 of 19 career meetings with the American but this will be there first as married men. Any significance to that? Doubtful. What is significant is Roddick’s lack of clay preparation – he’s played one clay match this year after receiving a walkover today from Nikolay Davydenko which won’t help his cause – and the fact that clay is not his surface, so it’s hard to see Andy getting a third scalp on the Swiss.
Stranger things have happened of course and the “pusher” Roddick will likely be able to keep the ball in play longer which will illicit a few more errors from Federer than usual, but Roger should get through in straight sets.
While Federer-Roddick is the marquee match on the card here in the U.S., in Spain the focus will be on Rafael Nadal’s test against local boy Fernando Verdasco. The altitude, perhaps a quicker court should aid Verdasco but Rafa’s still the clear choice in that one.
Arguably the most competitive match may very well turn out to be Andy Murray’s tussle with Juan Martin Del Potro. Murray’s my pick because I just don’t think DelPo’s best surface is clay. I still expect it to be a hard-fought, competitive match and if Murray tries to get to cute the Argy can pull the upset.
And Novak Djokovic has quietly been dismantling the competition once again, and that should continue Friday against the re-born (?) Ivan Ljubicic. We often think of Ljubicic as a fast court player, but the Croat posted his best career result on the clay with a semifinal at the 2006 French Open and he’s beaten Novak before.
So if the four matches goes according to form Friday we will have the top four players into the semifinals. And as I said before, that’s a rarity. So my gut still tells me someone is going to get picked off, question is who?
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