So who’s the pick in the Friday Wimbledon semifinals? Both men’s matches are really dead even and very tough to call. On first of course is Tomas Berdych v. Novak Djokovic, followed by the marquee matchup all of England will be watching between Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. The winners meet Sunday for the Wimbledon title. Now for the breakdown and the picks:
Tomas Berdych v. Novak Djokovic
These two power sluggers are meeting for the third time, but this clash is by far their biggest and most important. Djokovic got Berdych twice on hard courts and both times in straight sets a few years ago.
Berdych, however, is a much better player right now than he was just a year ago, but is Djokovic? I’m not so sure.
Novak had a great win beating Lleyton Hewitt on Monday and he then rolled over Yen Hsun Lu in the 16s. He’s also got wins over Olivier Rochus in five sets along with Taylor Dent and Albert Montanes. But today Djokovic faces his first real power baseline player. And this one is hot.
Berdych is playing the best tennis of his life right now. The 24-year-old just reached his first career Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open last month, and on Wednesday he pocketed what was arguably the biggest win of his career ending Roger Federer’s Wimbledon reign in awfully convincing fashion.
So both players seem to be hitting thier stride at the right time, and both have beaten former champions this week. But I give a little more credit to Berdych for taking care of Federer than I do Djokovic for his win over Hewitt and Lu.
Berdych is also serving bigger and I think hitting the ball better and cleaner overall. And he’s playing again at 1pm on Centre Court, the same time and same location as when he beat Federer yesterday. That familiarity and his confidence should be enough to get him through.
Novak also has the pressure of being the guy who’s been there before. And he’s the slight favorite. But he really hasn’t had that many big time wins in big moments this season. Berdych has. Berdych in four.
Andy Murray v. Rafael Nadal
We’ve been waiting over five months for this rematch. Back in Melbourne Murray had his way with Nadal before the Spaniard retired when down in the third set. Murray was playing well enough that day that he would have won regardless of Nadal’s knee.
Nadal is now healthy and playing much better tennis than he did at the start of the year. And the Spaniard is back at the No. 1 ranking following his Clay Sweep which culminated in his fifth French Open title last month.
Murray is also improving. After being stuck in a slump post Australian Open, the Scot seems to have rebounded in nick of time during this Wimbledon. And coming into the Final Four round Murray has lost just one set. Just one! So you could make the case he’s been playing the best of anyone this week.
But Nadal leads the overall head-to-head 7-3 and after a very shaky week 1 for Rafa which included 5-set Houdini acts against Robin Haase and Phil Petzchner, Nadal seems to have emerged an even stronger player.
On Wednesday, Nadal tore through an in-form Robin Soderling, and the Swede acknowledged that Rafa was playing a different, more aggressive brand of tennis. And that’s important because if Rafa’s going for his shots and Murray’s scrambling trying to play defense as we’ve seem him do before, then Rafa’s going to win. And I think that’s what’s going to happen.
We’ve seen Murray’s act before. He looks unbeatable early on only to fall apart at the worst times. He did it last year in the semifinal against Roddick when he went into passive mode. He did at the US Open against Cilic. And he did it again in that Australian Open final. And my guess is that Friday he’ll again revert to trying to beat an offensive-minded player via defense. Unfortunately that’s not going to work against someone like Nadal.
We’ll see which Murray shows up. If it’s the passive, stubborn one then Nadal in five.
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