Wednesday we witnessed a couple minor surprises with Tomas Berdych rockin’ Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal hammering an impaired Novak Djokovic. Nadal’s the No. 1 player in the world so it should never be a shock when he wins, but for me Berdych’s victory was the stunner of day.
Tomas had dropped four straight to Roddick and six of eight overall. And the guy’s really gone off the radar since July. That is until today. After listlessly losing his opening round robin to Djokovic, Berdych rose to the occasion today handing Roddick a very comprehensive 7-5, 6-3 defeat.
“It feels great,” said Berdych. “None of these matches are easy. I still [have a] chance to have it in my hands in the last match.”
And that he does. If Berdych beats Nadal in straight sets on Friday he’ll be playing Saturday, possibly as a Group A winner!
For Roddick, who’s lost four straight sets, he’s got work to do if he wants to win this title. He’ll have to beat Djokovic in straights and hope Nadal does the same to Berdych.
“I don’t think he came into the match with a lot of confidence,” said Roddick.
Roddick, who I felt played pretty well against Nadal in his opener, was far too passive today. I joked a few years ago that Roddick had become an American version of David Ferrer. Today, at times, not only was he playing like him he even started grunting like Ferrer!
In the marquee match, Nadal and Djokovic hooked up for a 23rd time. Nadal led going 15-7 and coming out, he now leads 16-7! That’s 16 wins already for Nadal over Djokovic, and this was one of the more peculiar victories. A true “WTF” match!
The two began the match as advertised with heavy, grinding,draining baseline exchanges. Nadal broke early, Djokovic came back. Then in at 4-3 the match turned. Djokovic began having serious issues with his right eye. First it was a routine trainer visit, then later in the set he left the court for what seemed to be 5-6 minutes to fix a contact issue.
If this wasn’t enough eye drama, a perturbed Nadal had to watch Novak receive a second round of treatment after the first set.
“I really feel sick talking about it,” said Djokovic. “It never happened to me in my life. I’m just really annoyed that something like this can really affect the match. My right eye got irritated, and from 5-all I could not play. I could not see a ball, especially the return. It was just terrible. I will try to see a doctor and see if there is something more serious going on and in two days hopefully I can be ready.
“I know I’m in the tournament. It’s not that I think everything is lost. It’s far away from that. I know I’m still in the tournament. I have big chances to qualify. It’s just that these things make me very angry.”
Playing with one eye? Well, if nothing else that’s a new one! And it sure didn’t help the Serb. From 5-5 in the first, Nadal won six straight games to salt away the match which had began with so much promise.
“For me [it] was a very important victory because my level was high another time; [I was] playing very well in the first set especially,” Rafa said. “For sure [it] is a very important victory for the group because I am in a good position.”
Now Nadal, who was winless in this event a year ago, will qualify for the Final Four by winning a set on Friday against Berdych.
As for Group B…
After an 0-2 pick day today, I’ll try to do better for Thursday’s Group B final round robin pairings.
First on is Roger Federer and Robin Soderling. Federer holds a monster edge 15-1, but the only loss was a crusher this year in the French Open wind and rain. Indoors there won’t be any such weather elements to deal with and even though Soderling excels under the roof and can hit through a slow court, the head-to-head is just to great for the Swede to overcome. I think Robin will keep it close but Federer in three.
If that result does come correct – Fed over Robin in three – then Murray will qualify by winning a set against Ferrer. And I think the Scot will get the job done. The pressure’s on and this time Murray will come through. He really has no choice! In London he HAS to beat Ferrer!
Head-to-head however, Ferrer leads Murray 3-1 (3-0 on clay) with two wins this season – in Rome and Madrid. To add, the court is slow in London and despite two straight set losses to Federer and Soderling, Ferrer’s been banging the ball well. And he returns well – Murray’s been serving poorly – and he can attack a passive-playing Murray. So the door is open for an upset in this match that will have meaning regardless of the Fed-Soderling outcome. But a loss for Andy would be a devastating way to end the season. For his sake I hope he doesn’t go out that way. I’ll pick Murray in straights.
For those who celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! There’s a lot to be thankful for in the world of tennis!
THURSDAY THANKSGIVING SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 12:15 pm
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs  L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND)
Not Before 2:00 PM
 R Federer (SUI) vs  R Soderling (SWE)
Not Before 6:15 PM
 M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs  J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER)
Not Before 8:00 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
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