A week after his 33rd birthday Roger Federer didn’t play much like the old man that he is. Earlier today Federer dominated Andy Murray in the first set then overcame a two break defecit in the second winning five of the last six games en route to a 6-3, 7-5 win over his longtime rival.
“In the second set, I lost a little bit of the rhythm,” Federer told ESPN after the match. “From the baseline, [Murray] was hitting the ball well – harder and deeper… I snuck in a quick break, and next thing you know, I’m back. I feel like I stole that second set.”
Federer is now level 11-11 against Murray leaving just Rafael Nadal among the big names to hold an active edge over the Swiss legend. And for Murray, like Novak Djokovic, the match was not a very positive way to head into the US Open.
“I started the match off pretty slow tonight,” said Murray. “[Federer] came out quick. Then I had a couple break points in back-to-back games to get into it in the first set. I didn’t get either of them.
“Then obviously was well up in the second and blew it. It’s a shame.”
Murray also won’t be a Top 8 seed, so that could spell trouble in his draw.
In his semifinal tomorrow night Federer will take on Milos Raonic who absolutely pounded Fabio Fognini 6-0, 6-1.
“For once I actually struggled with my serve and not my return,” said Raonic. “A lot of things I did well today knowing and just understanding. Playing him is difficult just because of the unpredictability. I was able to break pretty handily most of the time, and then I was scrapping out quite a few.”
For Fabio’s sake I hope he was injured!
In the other semi, David Ferrer, a 3-set winner over Tommy Robredo, faces the surprising Cinderella Julien Benneteau who knocked out Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in a topsy-turvy 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 affair to advance to his first career Masters semi.
“It’s my best result in a Masters 1000,” said the 32-year-old Benneteau. “The Masters 1000 are very, very difficult tournaments because the cut is like 40, 45. It’s top 45 players in the world on every tournament at this level. You don’t have a lot of opportunities to make a very big result.”
For Stan it’s another head-scratcher of a loss. And with a US Open semifinal defense on the horizon it’s not a good sign – is anyone among the top feeling good about the US Open besides Federer?
As for tomorrow’s semifinal picks.
David Ferrer v Julien Benneteau
Benneteau’s been a great story this week. He’s French veteran who’s never won a title (0-9 in finals) and he’s got a decent game, but I just think he’s out of his element in a Masters semifinal. Whereas Ferrer’s right at home. The Spaniard, also 32, is in his third Masters final four of the season and he’s also beaten Benneteau in five of their nine meetings. So I’m leaning his way here.
That said, as someone pointed out on TV, Benneteau has a hard-to-describe game. He can do a lot of things and often do those things very well, like attack, like serve, like volley, like hit his backhand, etc. And he’s beaten Ferrer a few times, even beaten Federer and of course Wawrinka. However, the fact that he’s winless in ATP finals tells me he gets rattled in tight situations. And with a spot in the biggest final of life on the line I expect that happens again.
Ferrer has too much experience and should keep Benneteau off balance just enough.
The pick: Ferrer in two
Roger Federer v Milos Raonic
The match we wanted to see last week in Canada is the one we get this weekend in Cincinnati. Federer has won all five against the Canuck and I have to favor him again tomorrow night. Though cautiously.
While he’s made the semis this week, Federer’s played well in spurts and then he lets down. Today he jumped all over Murray early taking the first set and then, almost on cue, was more than willing to drop the second. Something we’ve seen a lot of lately.
Once he went down a break in the second, I’m the sure the Federer faithful were thinking, “here we go again.” But Murray let him off the hook and Federer took advantage to get through without another third set mind-bender.
Saturday night’s match will be nothing like playing Murray. And that’s good for Roger. If Roger serves well and gets a few returns to stick it should be another routine match like Wimbledon semifinal.
If he’s having trouble reading the Raonic serve then we’ll likely play that tiebreaker roulette, and we know anything can happen in that game.
So I like Federer’s history over Milos and also his history over the big servers (like Andy Roddick), and I think he survives in a tight one.
The pick: Federer in three
The women’s semis are also pretty good with Serena Williams against Caroline Wozniacki and then at night Maria Sharapova takes on Ana Ivanovic. That’s quite a quartet.
ESPN2 has live coverage of all the matches tomorrow starting at 1pm.
SATURDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER COURT start 1:00 pm
WTA –  S Williams (USA) vs  C Wozniacki (DEN)
Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP –  D Ferrer (ESP) vs J Benneteau (FRA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA –  A Ivanovic (SRB) or E Svitolina (UKR) vs  M Sharapova (RUS)
Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP –  M Raonic (CAN) vs  R Federer (SUI)
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