Rome Masters 2013: Predictions for Saturday's Men's Semifinal Action
Three of the planet's top-six men's tennis players will be in action on Saturday in Rome, site of the 2013 Italian Open, the last stop before the French Open.
So, will this weekend mark the first Federer-Nadal final since the 2011 French Open?
Here we'll take a closer look at Saturday's semifinal matchups, predicting a winner for each.
Tomas Berdych (6) vs. Rafael Nadal (5)
Six-time Italian Open champion Rafael Nadal enters Saturday's first semifinal matchup with Tomas Berdych riding an impressive 13-match winning streak against the Czech star.
That's right, Nadal hasn't lost to the 27-year-old Berdych since 2006 and is 14-3 against him all time.
Will Rafa win his seventh career Rome Masters title in 2013?
On top of that, Nadal is 4-0 all-time against Berdych on clay, most recently defeating him in straight sets in the quarterfinals of this tournament a year ago.
Still, don't expect Nadal to roll over Berdych on Saturday. The 2010 Wimbledon finalist is coming off an upset win over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Friday in which he won nearly 80 percent of his first-serve points. If Berdych can recreate that performance on Saturday, Rafa could be in trouble.
Nadal was every bit as solid as Berdych in the quarterfinals, though, winning 40 percent of his first-serve return points and 52 percent of his second-serve return points against compatriot David Ferrer.
Assuming Rafa plays his usual, dominant clay-court game on Saturday, Berdych will have to be nearly superhuman in order to upend him. With the French Open looming, expect Nadal to get it done.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal
Benoit Paire vs. Roger Federer (2)
Frenchman Benoit Paire is clearly a player on the rise. The 24-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance this season in wins over Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon and most recently Juan Martin del Potro. Paire knocked off Delpo in straight sets in the third round on Thursday, acing the Argentine six times and winning 54 percent of his second-serve return points.
Unfortunately, the unseeded Paire has ways to go before he can be favored in a matchup against 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
Who needs a win more on Saturday?
The two last met in the first round at the 2013 Australian Open last January, with Fed winning easily in straight sets. Although these two have never met on clay, you have to love the Swiss legend's chances of claiming two sets.
After all, Fed has yet to drop a single set in Rome this week, cruising past Potito Starace, Gilles Simon and Jerzy Janowicz to reach the semifinals.
In Friday's straight-sets win over Janowicz, Federer looked like the Roger of old, recording 11 aces, zero double faults and winning over 70 percent of his service points.
Look for Fed to keep that momentum going on Saturday, beating Paire for the third-straight time to set up a thrilling Sunday final with his greatest rival.
Prediction: Roger Federer
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