One thing is for sure we’ll have an American against a European in the finals of the Cincinnati Tennis Masters, but who will it be?
In the quarterfinals Friday, American countrymen Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick earned their spots in the Final four with both taking different routes.
Fish enjoyed one of the best wins of his career beating an in-form Andy Murray 6-7(7), 6-1, 7-6(5).
Murray led a mini-break 4-2 in the final set tiebreak before Fish got hot again winning four straight to eventually claim his third consecutive victory over Murray this year.
“Yeah, it was physical. It’s hot,” Fish said. “The humidity is not there as much as, you know, maybe we had in D.C. or Atlanta, but it’s every bit as hot. So, yeah, I mean, it feels great to win a match like that.”
Murray seemed to be exhausted from his seven match win streak. “Just tired. It’s nothing more than that really,” he said afterward. Murray was visited by the trainer during the match for spells of dizziness and knee pain and the Scot complained about an earlier noon start when his request for a late start was denied. That said, Murray needs to quit whining about the schedule and play tennis.
While Fish went the distance, Roddick had a comfortable afternoon in a 6-4, 7-5 win over a very uninspired, catatonic Novak Djokovic.
“Novak probably didn’t play his best today,” agreed Roddick who’s been battling a bout with mono. “That’s fairly apparent. He’s missing balls he normally doesn’t miss. So I probably expected him to play a little bit better.
“I didn’t come into this tournament with hardly any expectations,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was gonna play it, to be honest, you know, Thursday, Friday of last week. So I mean, the doc told me to probably only practice about an hour a day, and I think I’ve done more than that this week. So it’s all good from — regardless of what happens from here on out, I consider it a big success just because I feel like I have some form going into the US Open regardless. So this has been a very, very positive week for me this week.”
The win for Roddick sends the two-time Cincy champ back into the Top 10 on Monday, and it was his fourth straight over the Serb who appears to have no answer against Roddick and little motivation to find one.
“The game overall was terrible,” the World No. 2 said. “Just played a very bad match, even though it was 6-4, 7-5. Every time I need to do play well, I made some mistakes, especially from forehand side, which is my stronger side. Supposed to play more winners than unforced errors. But, you know, bad day I guess.”
“I guess”? I guess Andy’s in your head Novak.
“Andy, he was getting a lot of balls back, but he didn’t do anything special,” he added. “I mean, he was just playing, and he didn’t even play any deep balls. He was just kind of making me play an extra shot, and I was making unforced errors from all court. It was just terrible.”
All eyes were on a possible Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown Saturday night, but those plans got nixed yet again.
Federer did his part in business-like 6-4, 7-5 win over Nikolay Dayvdenko.
But in the evening Marcos Baghdatis pulled off the stunner of the day with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 upset over Nadal.
Baghdatis, who had never beaten Nadal in three tries, broke Rafa at 4-4. Then, serving for the match, he squandered a 40-0 lead leaving things rather tight and precarious at 40-30. But Marcos pulled it out when Nadal misfired into the net off the ground.
“I think against Rafa you have to mix up the speed of the balls,” Marcos said. “You don’t have to give him rhythm basically. You have to hit one and then play slow, you know. You just have to make him think. When you play the same speed he likes it and he starts to feel the game and starts to get the rhythm. That’s what I did today. Like I said, I also served very big today and that was the key of the match.”
Said Nadal of his uneven play, “My game can improve, that’s for sure. Must improve if I really want to have chances to have some opportunity in two weeks or in one week in New York. So I have one week to keep working, keep practicing hard, and that’s what I gonna try: to keep improving my confidence with the backhand. And the serve I think I am in the right way, but I need to keep working. I gonna have a good chance to work. And the forehand, I am playing well with the forehand, but I am having too much unforced errors for the moment.”
Nadal has never been to the final on fast courts of Cincinnati, nor the final on the even faster courts in Flushing.
Baghdatis has quietly put together a heck of a summer. And he’s beaten both Wimbledon finalists – Tomas Berdych and now Nadal – in his last two matches and he now meets a 6-time champion – like Murray last week, he too will try to beat Rafa and Roger back-to-back.
As for today, in the earlier semifinal Fish has been one of the hottest players this summer winning 21 of his last 24 matches and 15 of 16. Fish’s summer resurgence began with a title in Newport, then Atlanta where he beat Roddick before losing to Marin Cilic in three sets in the Washington third round.
Head-to-head, Roddick has the big edge 9-2 including a Cincinnati 2003 win in the final, but Fish won their most recent meeting in that Altanta semifinal. In fact that win for Fish was the first time he’s won a matchpoint in singles against Roddick in his pro career – Fish’s other win came courtesy of a Roddick retirement. So Fish has to be flying high in confidence and in his game at this point.
If he still has the legs from yesterday’s near 3-hour win over Murray (and he played/lost doubles later), I give the slight edge to Fish in this one.
Tonight, like Fish, Baghdatis’s confidence also has to be soaring after earning his first career wins over Berdych then Nadal. Federer, though, is 6-1 against the Cypriot and he’s the fresher guy after playing just under three sets this week.
“I’m gonna concentrate on my game,” Baghdatis said of the Swiss. “I’m not gonna start thinking if I beat him or if he’s beatable or not. I think I’ll just go out there and try to find the solution to win like I did last time, just to play very aggressive, serve very well like today, and basically play my game.”
The match will be played in cooler conditions so heat won’t be a factor but I have to wonder about Bag’s legs and energy level after last night. That said, Marcos has the game to beat Federer but I give the edge to Roger tonight.
Both semifinals should be live on ESPN2 in the U.S. On Sunday CBS will have live coverage of the final.
CINCINNATI SATURDAY SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 12:00 noon
 L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT) vs  M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR)
Not Before 2:00 PM
[WC] M Fish (USA) vs  A Roddick (USA)
Not Before 7:00 PM
M Baghdatis (CYP) vs  R Federer (SUI)
W Moodie (RSA) / D Norman (BEL) vs  B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA)
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