Quickly, raise your hand if you had picked three of the four men’s semifinalists at the start of the week at the French Open. And if you picked all four, email me your address because we have some business to discuss (i.e., the future of the stock market, the winner of the next super bowl and of course when the next Rocky movie will be released.)
Needless to say it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the kind of topsy-turvy, bewildering Slam that the French Open has brought upon us the last 4-5 days. No Roger Federer. No Serena Williams. Just Jurgen Melzer, Tomas Berdych, Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur.
That’s all well and good for… Rome. But for a Grand Slam? What the heck happened?
Well, here’s what happened. The power game is taking over. At least on the men’s side it is. If you can’t hit the ball hard you are in grave danger at the highest of levels. That means you Roger Federer. The Swiss’s last two Slam losses have come to players who hit the ball harder than he does – Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open and Robin Sodering earlier this week. And I could go on but I won’t.
And really it’s not surprise. In many ways it’s been a long time coming. But it finally seems to be here.
And tomorrow we’ll see it in full flight.
First it’s Tomas Berdych and Robin Soderling. Both long known and mentally fragile and underachivers, Soderling cracked that mold a a year ago with that Nadal win and now Berdych is following suit. Berdych is arguably playing better ball as the Czech has quietly yet to drop a set in five matches. Soderling gets the fanfare because he beat Rafael Nadal last year and then Federer this year. But Berdych beat him in Miami and I think he hits the ball just as hard as the Swede.
Their games are really quite even. Berdych maybe hits flatter while Soderling spinny-er. I give the edge to Berdych on the serve and backhand. Soderling gets the rest. Robin’s proven it on the biggest of stages whereas Berdych has wins but not of the quality of Soderling’s in Slam play.
Soderling is also ahead in their head-to-head 5-3, but Berdych rocked him in the Miami semifinal 6-2, 6-2. And that counts for a lot.
Most people are picking Soderling just because he beat Federer. But a lot of people have beat Federer this clay season. So on a whim I’ll say Berdych in straight sets.
Not having lost a set counts more to me than beating Federer on clay. Their most recent meeting doesn’t hurt either.
In the second semifinal, an all-lefty one, it’s Nadal v. Melzer. Rafa’s through to his fifth Roland Garros, but the 4-time champ also hasn’t dropped a set but still has seen better days on the clay.
Meanwhile, Melzer is an enigma. I have no idea why he has reached where he has reached. It just doesn’t add up aside from Novak Djokovic’s collapse from up a break and two sets on the Austrian Wednesday.
What does add up is that Nadal dominates lefties and he dominates Melzer. There is no doubt Melzer is playing the best tennis of his life, and I really don’t think his five setter against Novak will have any affect on the match. against Rafa. But I do feel that internally he has to be satisfied with his semifinal run thus far. That’s his footprint to keep and he’s happy with it. So I’m picking Nadal in three.
That said, is anyone picking Melzer?
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