It’s one of the biggest non-Slam days we’ve had on the ATP circuit in a long, long time. Last week we saw all Top 8 players reach the Montreal quarterfinals. Today, Cincinnati arguably does one better playing host to the Top 4 in the semifinals. The end results is one of the best Final Four line ups we’ve seen in a long time – 2008 Monte Carlo was the last time the Top 4 appeared in a SF – with No. 1 Roger Federer battling No. 2 Andy Murray, and No. 3 Rafael Nadal v. No. 4 Novak Djokovic.
I think today’s results will go a long way in determining the fate of the four combatants come the US Open which begins in just nine days. So for me there’s more on the line than just wins and losses in Cincinnati.
Up first in about hour or so is a much-anticipated, long-awaited match between Federer and Murray. We nearly got that tussle a week ago, but Federer stunningly crashed out to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Today, meeting #9 in on.
Murray of course has won six of the eight meetings with the Swiss, including four straight (I think five if you add in an exo at the start of the year). For Murray, it’s important ahead of the Open to maintain that advantage.
For Federer, it’s really hard to gauge his focus. At this stage in his career, no doubt that he’s concentrating on Slams, so one had to wonder if he still wakes up with enough fire in his belly to really go after the Masters events like he did in past.
A year ago he lollygagged his way through the summer and still managed to win the US Open in the end. Surely that’s on his mind and even though he’s been on the wrong side of the scorecard to Murray, he’ll take another loss here for a surprise win at the Open over the Scot. That said, I’m picking Murray here in two. He’s clearly been playing the better tennis, and in Cincinnati he won’t be feeling the “Slam” pressures. Plus, hHe can’t afford to lose the edge he has over Roger. If he loses here I don’t see him beating Roger at the Open.
The night semifinal also has storylines aplenty. Is Nadal finally 100% back? Is Djokovic still a threat to the top guys? And more.
A year ago in this same round, same time it was Novak winning. Tonight, I think it’s Rafa. Head-to-head Nadal has dominated leading 14-4 with five straight wins over the Serb since that Cincinnati setback. Of course their most recent encounter was that four-hour epic played in Madrid, a loss that Novak really hasn’t seemed to have recovered from.
So for me there’s more on the line for Novak than anyone else playing today. A loss today really moves him back among the contenders at Flushing and he’ll go into the final Major of the year without having a really big win in months. A win, though, puts him back in the mix. But from what I’ve seen, I just don’t think Novak has the belief – we know he has the game – to win at this stage and beat Nadal. So again, Rafa straight sets.
And that should leave us with a Murray v. Nadal final and with the quick turnaround from night to day for the Spaniard, I think Murray wins. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
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