There is no doubting Rafael Nadal’s ability to come up big in pressure situations. The same, though, cannot be said for his fourth round opponent Tomas Berdych. Last night with Berdych leading 2-0 in the second set tiebreak, the big Czech had a forehand winner lined up with a chance to seize control of the breaker.
But Berdych pushed the forehand long and a potential 3-0 lead with two serves to come evaporated, and with so too did the match. Nadal won six of the next eight points to seal a tough 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over Berdych in the quarterfinals at the Tennis Masters BNP Parisbas Open at Indian Wells.
For defending champion Nadal, it was his 10th straight win at Indian Wells and his 20th of his last 21. For Berdych, another chance lost. The guy comes oh so close, but mentally Berdych is still so far away.
“I played really well, especially the first set,” said Nadal who hasn’t won a title in 10 months. “The first probably eight, nine games of the match was unbelievable level. Later the wind came a little bit and it was more difficult to play. But anyway, we were still playing, kept playing at high level, and this is very important. Very good news for me to be in semifinals.”
In the Saturday semifinal, Nadal will be the heavy favorite against the surprising Ivan Ljubicic who earlier in the day beat Juan Monaco in three sets 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“The conditions suits my game perfectly,” Said Ljubicic who turns 31 today. “It’s nice and dry. The ball goes through the air pretty quickly. The court is slow enough so I can return well, as well. It’s just perfect.”
After a rather unremarkable afternoon session yesterday, today’s card under the sun is loaded with both men’s top half quarterfinals plus a women’s semifinal.
For the men it’s Andy Roddick and Tommy Robredo followed by Andy Murray against Robin Soderling. On to the picks.
Like Berdych, Robredo is another guy who plays well and looks good, but far too often comes up short against the big names. I recall Robredo really pushing Roger Federer a few times in the Slams and even Nadal last fall, but all for not. And against Roddick, the Spaniard is incredibly 0-10 lifetime against the American winning just one of 26 sets! I say “incredible” because T-Rob has a good enough game to trouble A-Rod, but mentally the two are different planes.
Roddick’s been playing well all week – he hasn’t dropped a set – although he’s really had a great draw. And that great draw continues today against Robredo who got bageled by Marcos Baghdatis the other day. Roddick’s the pick.
I picked Murray to win this title at the start of the week, and so far nothing the Scot has done has made me rethink that choice. Like Roddick, Murray’s also enjoyed a good draw but that changes today against the very dangerous Soderling. Robin hasn’t dropped a set in impressive wins over JW Tsonga, Feliciano Lopez and Evgeny Koralev. Soderling also beat Murray in their last meeting but that came in Memphis in 2006. Murray’s a far better player these days – as is Robin – and with the match outdoors and the elements involved (wind, heat) I like Murray here.
The women’s semifinals today feature Sam Stosur against Jelena Jankovic at noon. Then tonight Caroline Wozniacki meets friend Agnieska Radwanksa. A win for the Dane moves her to No. 2 in the world! The women’s final will be played Sunday with both men’s semifinals tomorrow afternoon.
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