Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are scheduled to meet for the 27th time of their careers on Day 11 from Melbourne Park in what will be the first men's semifinal at the 2012 Australian Open. Nadal enters the contest with a clear edge in head-to-heads, as he has beaten the Swiss Maestro in 17 of their previous 26 matches.
However, Federer is still coming in as the betting favorite as Stan James, for example, has priced the Swiss Maestro at 4/6 (-150) to beat Nadal straight up.
Federer's form at the 2012 Australian Open is beyond reproach as he enters the semis following four straight-set victories (he also advanced via a walkover). However, it should be pointed out that Federer has not faced that tough of an opponent so far at Melbourne Park; he's enjoyed a weak draw.
Mardy Fish, seeded eighth in the event, was in Federer's quarter, but Fish has not played well for several months now. True to form, Fish went out early in the draw—an outcome that was not surprising—and that left a quarterfinal spot open for Juan Martin del Potro.
Talented as the Argentine might be, he hasn't proved himself to be a Grand Slam contender post-injury, and Fed brushed him aside as a result.
Federer might well be in the semifinals, but he's there without having beaten a Top 10 player in the Melbourne Park draw.
Nadal, on the other hand, enters the semis fresh off of a victory against Tomas Berdych—a win that probably should not be underestimated. Berdych has shown shades of the tennis he played during the spring and summer of 2010 when he made the French Open semis and the Wimbledon final.
Nadal over an impressive Berdych in four is more convincing to me than Federer beating an already-washed-up del Potro.
Additionally, Nadal defeated Federer the only time the two players met in a hard-court Grand Slam match—the 2009 Australian Open final. While Federer is coming in as the betting favorite, you have to think that Rafa is the true favorite, keeping in mind that Federer has been sent off in three straight hard-court Grand Slam semifinals now.
Nadal probably won't make Federer cry at Melbourne Park this time around, as the Swiss Maestro is probably growing more accustomed to late-round disappointments. However, I think the world No.2—a player who has won four Grand Slams since Federer won his last one—should properly be considered the favorite in this semifinal match.
While I believed in a Federer vs. Djokovic final pre-tournament, Nadal's performance so far in Melbourne has changed my mind.
Prediction: Rafa, straight up.