There is no Roger Federer. There is no Rafael Nadal. But the show must go on! For the first time since the days of Gaston Gaudio winning majors, neither Federer nor Nadal are alive on the final weekend of a Grand Slam.
Former US Open champion Nadal of course completely missed the summer hardcourt season with that darn knee of his, and the rest of 2012 is in serious doubt.
Five-time winner Federer came in riding a hot summer streak but couldn’t muster the “goods” against a better Tomas Berdych Wednesday night.
With the main attractions watching from home the second and third tier stars will share the spotlight all to themselves this weekend. World No. 2 Novak Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set in his first US Open title defense. Andy Murray continues to bear the burden of decades of British male futility in Grand Slam play. At 30 David Ferrer is having his best season as a pro and the powerful, burly Berdych is the semifinal X-Factor.
On to the matchups.
Andy Murray v. Tomas Berdych
Murray apparently turned the corner when he handed Federer one of his worst career losses in the Olympic gold medal match last month. But will that one, single win really change Andy’s fortune? It’s hard say, but we’ll know a lot more this weekend.
With Federer and Nadal out of the way the pressure and expectation only mount for Murray to finally grab that first Grand Slam title. Coach Ivan Lendl lost his first four and his protege has done the same.
Instead of facing Federer, Murray will have to deal with Berdych. And Berdych has beaten Murray in four of six meetings and in straight sets in their only prior Slam meeting at the 2010 French.
Murray is a better, more aggressive player now, however had Marin Cilic not choked a 5-1 lead in the second set Wednesday, the Scot may also be watching from the sidelines.
What further gives me pause is of he’s having trouble against Cilic – albeit on an Armstrong court that he claims to have trouble on – how is he going to handle a hot handed Berdych who very comfortably dispatched Federer the other night?
“Even if you want to dictate points and be aggressive, he can take that away from you because he’s such a powerful guy,” Murray said. “You need to be smart against him. You need to use good variation and try not and give him the same ball over and over, because he likes that.”
So based on form I have to give the edge to Berdych and the head-to-head really factors in. Tomas looked very composed, confident and showed rare belief against Federer, and he’ll have that belief again having beaten Murray four times before.
For Murray, he’s expected to win tomorrow against a very dangerous player. And more often than not in big matches in which he’s favored that’s when things go badly for Andy. And I think feeling that weight, against coach Ivan Lendl’s wishes Murray will reverts back to that defensive posture and if the offensive Berdych is on song and serving well, it’s Czech mate.
The pick: Berdych in four
Novak Djokovic v. David Ferrer
You have to admire the effort and the attitude of Ferrer. He doesn’t have the greatest of stroke weaponry but between the ears and in the body he’s just so tough. Yesterday the Spaniard showcased that tenacity outlasting Djokovic’s countryman Janko Tipsarevic 7-4 in a fifth set tiebreak during an epic four-and-a-half hour marathon.
Tipsarevic was just points from a 5-1 lead and certain victory in the fifth before Ferrer roared back to steal the match. Unfortunately, I don’t think Novak will extend the same courtesy Janko.
Djokovic’s has been on a tear all summer. Apart from a curious collapse to Federer in the Cincinnati final, Djokovic has only lost one set and he’s hardly dropping serve. Last night a very game Juan Martin Del Potro threw everything he could at Djokovic and it still wasn’t even enough to scrape a set. That’s how stingy, how sharp Djokovic’s been of late.
And against Ferrer, who may be feeling it in the legs after such a long quarterfinal, he should be able to find a good rhythm and really dominate David like he did at the start of the year in Australia.
“David is a fighter,” Djokovic said. “He’s one of the biggest competitors we have in the game. People do not, I think, talk too much. They overlook him. But he has been one of the most consistent players on the tour. He plays great on every surface. You need to earn your points against him.”
Ferrer has won five of their 12 meetings but three of those victories were on clay and the other two came at the end of the year at the ATP Finals. On outdoor hardcourts, however, Djokovic is a commanding 7-0 winning all 17 sets. And with his firepower, determination and success at the US Open, that streak will continue on Saturday.
There’s no one stopping Nole this weekend.
The pick: Djokovic in three
With the possibility of rain later in the day. CBS will have live coverage of the semifinals starting an hour earlier at 11am ET.
SUPER SATURDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM Start Time
Tomas Berdych (CZE) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
David Ferrer (ESP) v. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM Start Time
Women’s Singles – Finals
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Will It Be Nadal v Djokovic In The US Open Final? Men’s SF Picks And Pans
Djokovic v Murray, Tsonga v Wawrinka; French Open SF Picks And Pans
Roger Federer v Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic v Richard Gasquet; Wimbledon SF Picks And Pans