What a great line-up today at the Rogers Cup Tennis Masters quarterfinals. Andy Murray is on first against David Nalbandian at 1pm. Rafael Nadal follows versus Phil Kohlschreiber. Then in evening Roger Federer gets a rematch with Tomas Berdych and in the closer Novak Djokovic challenges Jeremy Chardy.
First, a quick rewind back to Thursday, a day in which things went mostly to form. Nalbandian remained smoking hot putting away Robin Soderling in three sets. Roger Federer shook off a slow start to roll over Michael Llodra. Djokovic benefited from the later schedule in a straight set ease of Victor Hanescu and Nadal took care of qualifier Kevin Anderson.
The only result close to an eye-opener was Chardy’s straight set win over Nikolay Dayvdenko and the fact that Gael Monfils fed Murray a second set bagel.
Those results set up a nice quarterfinal schedule for Friday the 13th. Here are my match capsules:
Andy Murray v. David Nalbandian
This is the match of the summer to this point – likely to be eclipsed tomorrow or even later in the day. Murray is the defending Canadian champion while Nalbandian has won 11 straight matches and is seemingly back at full strength. And when David’s on his “A” game don’t we all just get a little giddy over the possibilities. Well, for all the talent and praise we award him Nalbandian often fails to live up to the hype. But I think today he stays on his wave.
Nalbandian has never lost to Murray in their two prior meetings. We recall their first clash at Wimbledon when David overcame a 2-0 set deficit to sting Murray at Wimbledon. The Argentine then got him again at the Paris Indoor in 2008.
Said Murray about David, “Yeah, he’s very tough. You know, I obviously played him at Wimbledon the first year I played there and lost in five sets, and then I played against him after I won the tournament in Madrid and St. Petersburg, and then I played him in Paris and I was pretty tired by then, but he’s a very, very good player, on his day, one of the best in the world and it’s gonna be tough.”
Murray didn’t look great in L.A. and he did drop a 6-0 set yesterday to Monfils, so there’s some concern over his form whereas there’s absolutely none for Nalbandian. David’s ripped off wins now over six straight Top 10 or former Top 10 players and as the head-to-head suggests, I think he matches up well with Murray. The Scot’s second serve is especially vulnerable to an aggressive returner like Nalbandian, and if Murray gets too defensive Nalbandian will run him ragged.
My pick: Nalbandian in two
Rafael Nadal v. Phil Kohlschreiber
At 26 and nearing 27, I think Kohlscreiber is off his peak. And to beat Nadal the German would have to be at that peak playing level. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think he still has the game to upset a player like Rafa.
Phil has a great backhand, good court instincts and is good mover – all qualities needed to beat Nadal – but I just feel he did all those things better a few years ago than he does them now. And Nadal’s won all six career meetings, two this year including a four-setter in Australia.
That said, Nadal, has looked rusty and error prone. He was lucky to have won that first set against Stan Wawrinka the other night, and last night he again was pushed deep into a breaker by qualifier Anderson. So I think it will be tight, but…
My pick: Nadal in two
Roger Federer v. Tomas Berdych
In the second “match of the summer” today, Federer gets a shot at revenge against his new boogeyman, Berdych. The Czech has beaten Roger the last two outings – in a thriller in Miami in April and in a stunner in June at Wimbledon.
Federer still leads Birdman 8-3 but has won just two sets of seven played in those losses this year.
Said Federer, “I definitely have to go back, and think what didn’t go so well against him and what did work well. He’s definitely on the run right now, so hope to stop him a bit. He played great in Paris, at Wimbledon, and also, he beat me in Miami in a tough three setter where I had match point, so that was a bit of a pity, obviously. So I hope to learn from those mistakes and come up with a good game plan tomorrow.”
Neither guy comes into today’s showdown playing high level tennis. Federer’s won both matches in straight sets but he didn’t look particularly great in doing it – unless you like pink. Berdych lost to Xavier Malisse in a poor outing in Washington last week, and on Thursday he needed three tough sets to beat Dolgopolov. So the big guy’s form is not where it was when he beat Roger at Wimbledon.
And in my post last night I talk about Federer’s mental attitude and how despite the losses piling up he still thinks he can win. And against Berdych, mentally even though he’s dropped two straight to him, he’ll going in thinking “Tomas beat me at Wimbledon because I was injured and now I’m 100% fit and healthy, and I have Paul Annacone by my side. In fact, Tomas has never beaten me when I’ve been with Paul. Hell, no one has.” Call it arrogance or confidence but that’s the mind of a tennis champion. You put a positive mental spin on the situation and play the game.
My pick: Federer in two
Novak Djokovic v. Jeremy Chardy
I know people don’t like hearing this, but a small percentage of the outcome of this match hinges on the earlier night match between Federer and Berdych. If Berdych wins I think Novak gets through as opportunity awaits. If Federer wins it gets a little tougher.
We saw Novak struggle mightily in his opener Wednesday against Julien Benneteau. In the midday heat Djokovic was again breathing heavy, looking exasperated, etc. Yesterday the tournament gave him a much friendlier 5pm start thus avoiding the peak heat, and now he’s featured in the late night match under the lights in what should be very comfortable conditions.
Chardy’s a decent player with a big serve and powerful groundstrokes. But Novak owns the Frenchman having won all four meetings and all in straight sets (9-0)!
They most recently met on the clay in Rome and Djokovic annihilated him 6-1, 6-1. But Chardy’s playing with some renewed confidence after knocking out in succession Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Verdasco and Nikolay Davydenko. But he was down to Marcos in the first and Verdasco served for the match in the second.
My Pick: Djokovic in two
And if things work out accordingly, we’ll have a semifinal four featuring Nalbandian v. Nadal, Federer v. Djokovic. Oops, I probably just ruined it.
As for TV, ESPN2 is on live with Murray v. Nalbandian which is a great match. But unfortunately it looks like that’s the only TV coverage today from the Rogers Cup for American audiences which is a “pity” as Federer likes to say. Check your online listings for a live stream.
FRIDAY TORONTO SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
 D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK)
Not Before 1:00 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs D Nalbandian (ARG)
Not Before 2:30 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs P Kohlschreiber (GER)
Not Before 7:00 PM
 T Berdych (CZE) vs  R Federer (SUI)
J Chardy (FRA) vs  N Djokovic (SRB)
GRANDSTAND start 4:00 pm
S Stakhovsky (UKR) / M Youzhny (RUS) vs  M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR)
P Kohlschreiber (GER) / G Monfils (FRA) vs  B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) – After Suitable Rest
Also Check Out:
Toronto Draw: Nadal, Murray Tough; Federer, Djokovic Easy
Un-Fit Rafael Nadal Withdraws From Toronto
Nadal, Federer Lead Top 6 Today at Cincinnati
Federer Lands in Nadal’s Half at Cincinnati; Roddick Returns
Roddick, Fish, Berdych Face Stern Tests Today in Washington