The destination of the 2012 French Open men’s title is ever closer to its resolution, and the matches that will decide this year’s finalists could not be more tantalizing.
The first semifinal sees world No. 2 Rafael Nadal face off against sixth seed David Ferrer, while third ranked player in the world Roger Federer faces off against the world’s best player, Novak Djokovic.
Here are some of the talking points of each match:
Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer
The big question heading into this match is really how much resistance David Ferrer will put up against Nadal, and how long this resistance will last.
Among a number of things that Ferrer is, he is a very fast starter. He is also a fierce striker of the ball and an incredibly hard and tireless worker. Other than the first descriptor, Nadal is more or less a like-for-like match to Ferrer, and this is where Ferrer has caused the most trouble for Nadal.
His fast starts have tended to earn him breaks against Nadal (and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this tomorrow) that others do not normally get, and in a special set of conditions (rallies kept to a minimum of five or less shots), this could be dangerous. However, this isn’t usually the case.
In the duo’s recent matches, Nadal’s modus operandi has been to hang on to Ferrer until such a time that his level drops a smidgen, and to capitalize on that. How is this possible?
Well, Andy Murray’s loss to Ferrer in the quarterfinals holds the key to that answer. Murray lost to Ferrer for two reasons: 1) deficiencies in his attacking game couldn’t be compensated by his defensive game, and as such, he couldn’t vary his tactics sufficiently when needed; 2) Murray has never beaten Ferrer on clay.
How does this apply to Nadal? Put simply: even if Nadal doesn’t play tactically well against Ferrer (and if he does, he’ll win), such is Ferrer’s record against Nadal that at the crunch times he is unlikely to hold up to the pressure.
Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer
I predicted Novak Djokovic to defeat Roger Federer if the two met at this stage, but I didn’t foresee Djokovic losing two sets each to Seppi and Tsonga, or Federer dropping a set to Mahut and Goffin, and two to Juan Martin Del Potro. As such, it's hard to call this match.
Admittedly, the wind has played havoc with the players’ ability to hit through the ball, but that’s not much of an excuse when we consider that both Djokovic and Federer have the advantage of greater technical adeptness than 94 percent of the field, and that this advantage should be even greater given the windy conditions of Paris over the past week and a half.
This then tells a number of things: 1) their ground-strokes are failing to do what they require from them; 2) success on the serve will go a long way to determining the outcome of the match.
My only question heading into this match is this: Does Roger Federer really want to face Rafael Nadal in another French Open final? Answer this however way you will, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this match was one-sided.