Aside from Andy Murray’s misery, things have gone almost according to form this week. The first major clay event of the season features a quartet of semifinalists one would expect to have at the Monte Carlo tennis masters.
Leading the way is the Clay King himself, Rafael Nadal, who racked up his 30th straight win in Monte Carlo after pounding two-time champ Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 6-2. Nadal will face another Spaniard tomorrow in David Ferrer who needed two tough sets to turn away Phil Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-6.
“He is better player on clay I think,” Nadal said of Ferrer. “[It will] be a really tough match. The style of Ferrero and Ferrer is different. Juan Carlos probably has [a] little bit more control of the ball. Ferrer plays with intensity, high intensity. When he’s hitting his forehand from the backhand [side], [it] is very difficult to stop him.”
Nadal has beaten Ferrer nine of 12 times including five straight. Ferrer did get him way back in 2004 on the clay in Stuttgart. Since that loss, though, Nadal has won 13 of 15 sets and all six meetings on the dirt against David.
The second semifinal pits Novak Djokovic against Fernando Verdasco. Djokovic is arguably playing his best tennis of the year after enjoying a third consecutive straight-set win with an impressive victory over the David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3.
“This is one of the best matches I’ve played in 2010,” Djokovic said. “I’m just happy to regain my confidence I wasn’t playing well in Indian Wells and Miami.”
Verdasco had the rockiest of roads today. The lefty was up 6-3, 5-1 with three matchpoints on countryman Alberto Montanes before Fernando seemingly did a dive off those nearby Monte Carlo cliffs to drop the set 7-6. But remarkable Verdasco did an about-face, recovered and took the third 6-0.
Since losing the first two meeting to Hot Sauce, Djokovic has won the last five meetings including a three-set quarterfinal win in Monte Carlo last year.
“So I know what game to play against them,” Djokovic said of Verdasco. “I need to stay closer to the lines, I guess, and be aggressive, but still not too much, because then I can make a lot of unforced errors. I shouldn’t force it too much.”
As for the picks, again it should be another straight forward day. Nadal remains the man to beat and while tomorrow should be his closet test of the tournament thus far I think he gets through in straight sets.
I think Novak also wins in straights. Verdasco’s second set brain cramp today gives me plenty of pause while Novak seems to have hit his stride just in time. Let’s hope, because it could be quite a clash come Sunday.
In the Charleston women’s WTA event, Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva will play in one semifinal. In the other it’s Daniela Hantuchova and Sam Stosur.
COURT CENTRAL start 11:30 am
 S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) vs  M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR)
Not Before 1:30 PM
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  F Verdasco (ESP)
 D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs  W Moodie (RSA) / D Norman (BEL)
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