Well, Tomas Berdych laid an egg. Though I guess the credit has to go with Ernests Gulbis. Today in the Latvian’s swift 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win in the French Open quarterfinals, it was stark how little fight the big Berdych had in him.
“It was not my best day,” said Berdych. “It was not the day that I would stay with him and push him into the tough situations. He handled it quite well.”
Gulbis jumped ahead early and never was troubled much thereafter, totally outclassing Berdych. A performance especially impressive given he had just beat Roger Federer in a tough 5-setter.
“It’s very special. Today was the best match of the tournament, I was doing everything right. Tomas got a bit upset that I was hitting all of the lines. I’m sorry, but that’s part of the game,” Gulbis said.
“I felt physically so good,” Gulbis added. “I felt that I can run forever. I felt that he cannot make winners. That’s how I felt on court. I felt that I covered it really well. If I feel so confident from the baseline, then everything just comes together.”
The other quarter was tighter but also devoid of any real drama as Novak Djokovic did just enough at the right moment to beat Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-6, 6-4 to reach his fourth straight French Open semifinal.
Djokovic only lost serve once – at the end of the match – but otherwise was just too good and too focused for Raonic on this day.
“Even though it was a straight set win, few points here and there kind of decided the winner,” said Djokovic. “That’s what I was expecting. I knew that he’s going to serve and I’m not going to have many opportunities, but when I do have them, I should use them. I have done well.”
Novak advanced to the semifinals as the rightful favorite to win the title after having dropped just one set – that in a breaker – all event. And he’ll be the overwhelming pick against Ernests.
“He’s been playing really well,” Djokovic said of Gulbis. “He’s confident. But again, I like my chances because I have had now couple of great weeks on the clay courts from Rome to now last ten days here in Roland Garros.”
So who will join Djokovic and Gulbis in the semis on Friday?
Gael Monfils v Andy Murray
This is a great matchup because both guys are so quick, so inventive and oddly, so defensive. It could turn into a true cat-and-mouse type of match with dinks, dunks, lobs and plenty of long rallies and theatrics.
There’s some history here, too. Albeit not very recent.
Monfils beat Murray eight years ago in a five set opening round win at the French. He beat him again in the Paris Indoor event in three back in 2010. Murray took three other meetings but the two have played in 3.5 years.
Thus far, between the two it’s been a draw as to their level of play. They both endured a tough 5-setters in the third round followed by relatively easy wins on Sunday.
But Murray is flat-out the better player. He’s got two Slam wins, he’s higher ranked, he’s got the game, the experience and the desire (unlike say a Berdych!). That said, Monfils will have the crowd, the emotion and the energy. But will it be enough? Can he either overpower or outsteady Murray?
I don’t think so. If Murray really wants this and he’s not saving himself for the grass, he should win here. Monfils should make enough mistakes (or more than Murray) to allow Andy to return to the semifinals. But it’s going to be a rollercoaster so strap in…
The pick: Murray in five
Rafael Nadal v David Ferrer
This 2013 French Open final rematch is all about Rafa’s back. That simple. If it’s OK he’ll win in straights, maybe four. If it’s an issue then look out. Ferrer’s already beaten him once this clay season and as one of the better returners on the tour, if Nadal can’t get the pop on the serve then it’s advantage David.
Nadal of course has dominated Ferrer 21-6 overall and 17-2 on clay. They played three times before at the French and Nadal hasn’t lost single set including that whitewash in the final last year.
Ferrer’s only hope is Nadal has an off day or if the back spasms out. And if there is some weather, or cool temperatures that won’t help Rafa much either.
However I just can’t pick against a possible injury and there’s always the fact that beating Rafa in best-of-5 on clay has been next to impossible. So…
The pick: Nadal in four
In the women’s draw, not surprisingly Maria Sharapova and Genie Bouchard will meet in one semi. Both blondes outlasted spirited efforts from their Spanish opposition today. Garbine Muguruza, a future star in my book, came within four points of upsetting the 2012 champ while Carla Suarez-Navarro let go of a 4-1 lead in the third to Canadian.
Tomorrow I think Simona Halep continues her run over former French champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sara Errani proves too tough for Andrea Petkovic.
Tennis Channel and ESPN2 will against tag team the coverage starting at 8am ET.
WEDNESDAY FRENCH OPEN QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE
Court Philippe Chatrier 2:00 PM Start
Sara Errani (ITA) vs. Andrea Petkovic (GER)
Gael Monfils (FRA) vs. Andy Murray (GBR)
Court Suzanne Lenglen 2:00 PM Start
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
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