The grass court season is not even a week old an already we are blessed with two sparkling matchups on Saturday. In one Queen’s semifinal, 2-time champion Andy Murray squares off against the resurgent JW Tsonga. Over in Germany, it’s 5-time Halle champion Roger Federer against the resurrected one, Tommy Haas.
Before I handicap those matches, a quick re-cap of a busy Friday.
First in Halle where Federer recorded his second career double bagel today after destroying German lefty Mischa Zverev. The quick 40-minute win offered some beleaguered Federer fans hope that Roger will do the greater good at Wimbledon, but will he?
It’s honestly hard to read much into a Zverev which Federer felt embarrassed by. More weight will be cast if he beats Haas tomorrow by a similar score!
Haas, meanwhile, is the defending champion and today he edged Gael Monfils. The Frenchman had his act going again diving around, hitting crazy shots before injuring himself late in the match. Haas did his best to block out such histrionics and prevailed.
In the other semi, Mikhail Youzhny bounced Phil Kohlschreiber in what I would call a mild upset. The Russian now faces Richard Gasquet.
In England, Murray has looked good not great through three matches. In his first tournament in about a month, Murray won two yesterday and today overcame a break down in the second to beat Ben Becker 6-4, 7-6.
For Tsonga, after six sets of tennis Thursday, he had a much easier time this afternoon thrashing American youngster Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-2.
And let’s not overlook the other semi which pits defending champion Marin Cilic against Lleyton Hewitt. Cilic beat up on Tomas Berdych while Hewitt, who’s enjoying “one of those weeks” he always seems to have, took down fellow US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro in three.
“I just wanted to try to get as many matches as possible, really,” said the 32-year-old Hewitt. “Throughout today, I played great. My ball striking was fantastic. Even though I was 0-4 down in the second set, I didn’t really do too much wrong. He played incredible tennis.”
As for the big two semifinals, it’s a good test as I feel all four guys will be week two factors at Wimbledon.
I think in Halle, I give the edge to Federer but Haas could certainly pull the upset just like he did last year. Haas is also arguably playing the better tennis, so this time around there are some expectations for him to win. And beating Federer in back-to-back matches on grass is a tall order especially for a 35-year-old. Roger’s also won 10 of 13 times, so I’ll take Federer in that one in three sets.
“I’m really looking forward to it obviously,” said Haas of playing Federer. “It’s one of these biggest challenges you can ask for.
“I definitely will have to have a good game plan, play really solid good percentage tennis and so does he. I think whoever wins the bigger points tomorrow and is a little bit more alert in the crucial points will win the match.”
As for Murray-Tsonga, I really like the way JW is playing tennis these days. Kudos to new coach Roger Rasheed for getting him on the straight and narrow – though he really flamed out against David Ferrer at the French! Today he did have an easy one against Kudla which is something he won’t get from Murray. And because of his absence from the French, Andy will have the extra desire to win this one. So in a close I’ll take Murray.
“It will be a big step up and also a really big test for me,” Murray said. “He’s been playing some great tennis the last couple of months. He obviously had a very good run at the French Open, and he’s a top grass court player.
“He’s one of the best in the world on this surface. I have had some tough matches with him on the grass before, so tomorrow will be the same.”
That said, both matches could easily go the other way. Haas has the game to beat Federer we know. And Murray might decide he’s played enough tennis this week (he’ll have played four matches in three days) and maybe he doesn’t want to do anything to risk his back.
Regardless of who you pick, both should be good matches. In fact the other two are decent as well.
Tennis Channel has complete coverage of all four semifinal matches.
SATURDAY HALLE SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
 R Federer (SUI) vs  T Haas (GER)
Not Before 4:00 PM
M Youzhny (RUS) vs  R Gasquet (FRA)
P Kohlschreiber (GER) / M Youzhny (RUS) vs D Bracciali (ITA) / J Erlich (ISR) – After Suitable Rest
SATURDAY QUEEN’S SCHEDULE
CENTRE start 1:15 pm
L Hewitt (AUS) vs  M Cilic (CRO)
 A Murray (GBR) vs  J Tsonga (FRA)
 A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs  J Benneteau (FRA) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs  M Bhupathi (IND) / R Bopanna (IND)
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