Todd’s Tennis Takes – 2012 Australian Open SemifinalsWednesday, January 25, 2012 15:45
Preview of the 2012 Australian Open Semifinals
Fab 4 Come Through
We live in an amazing age in men’s tennis, where the top 4 players are completely dominant and consistent, making this the 2nd Slam in a row all 4 have made the Semis, and the 7th in a row where at least 3 of the 4 have made the final four. Between them these 4 have played in 46 Slam finals (Fed 23, Nadal 14, Djoker 6, Murray 3), winning 30 of them (16 – 10 – 4 – 0). There is one crucial ingredient that they all possess, largely responsible for their greatness – speed. Combined with their racquet skills, not only does it make them 4 of the best defenders/scramblers ever, but it makes transition to aggression easier, creating more offensive opportunities, and then in turn, when they play each other as now, a need for yet more great defense – what a treat when they make it this far! Let’s look at the matchups…
Djoker/Murray – I’m not sure what’s more impressive about Djokovic these days – his speed/defense, or his ball-striking. He hits the cleanest, smoothest, high-margin topsin groundstrokes, with the ability to sting winners at will. His sliding is artful as he retains supreme balance to sting sharp shots from impossible defensive positions. The little tweaks he felt during the Ferrer match seem to have subsided, but of course could be re-aggravated chasing down a Murray dropper or sharply hit groundstroke. Djoker is aiming for his 3rd straight Slam win…Murray aiming for his 3rd straight Aussie final. Murray will likely try to be more aggressive than in the past against Djoker, but Djokovic will have more comfort in his naturally more dominating game, and should win in 3 or 4 sets. Murray has actually won 4 of their last 6 meetings, after Djoker took their first 4. Novak was 2-1 vs. Murray in 2011, retiring from the Cincy final in his lone defeat. Their only other Slam meeting was last year’s final, as for many years their 3 & 4 seedings kept them on opposite sides of the draw, not able to both penetrate the Rafa/Roger 1/2 wall.
Nadal/Federer – The greats meet again, for the 10th time in a Slam (Rafa leads 7-2), but just the 2nd time in a Semi (1st Slam meeting, ’05 French), as all the others have been finals. With far less time on the court, and his game looking quite strong, I think Fed has a great chance for his first win over Rafa at a Slam since the 2007 Wimby final (where Rafa had break pts early 5th set…). Nadal has 5 more hours on the court, while Federer hasn’t lost a set, had a default win in round 2, and has played just 1 tiebreaker in 4 matches. Of course, Fed could press to avoid getting caught in his backhand corner, and he’s not the Fed of 5 years ago, who took out a happy-to-be-there Fernando Gonzalez here in the final. Nadal might need to end points a little earlier than he’d like…one of the most interesting aspects of these legendary matchups is the chess match each one plays out in his mind, searching for the best route to victory, given all the current circumstances. I will take Fed, who still retains a 5-4 edge over Rafa on hardcourts, in 5 sets, a tight battle won by the fresher legs in the 5th.
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