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2013 US Open Tennis: Keys to Victory for Each Men's Semifinalist

Jeffrey RuthFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

2013 US Open Tennis: Keys to Victory for Each Men's Semifinalist

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    Here are the keys to victory in the men's semifinals of the U.S. Open 2013 championships:

    • No news is good news.
    • Forehand first.
    • Believe you belong.
    • Ride the first-serve train.

    These are the keys, but to whom do they belong?

    The answers may surprise, but then again it is already shocking that Richard Gasquet and Stanislas Wawrinka are two of the combatants. Let's take a look at what each of the four semifinalists needs to do to win.

Richard Gasquet

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    Before Richard Gasquet even steps on the court for his semifinal against Rafael Nadal at the 2013 U.S. Open, he must accomplish one simple thing: Do not read the news.

    He will never emerge from the locker room if he does.

    Andrew Lawrence of Sports Illustrated writes that, "When Nadal's playing this well, it's tough to imagine Gasquet hanging around Queens past Saturday. But if he has to go down, again, he's going down swinging."

    ESPN reminds readers that "Nadal never faced a break point [against Ferrer], and through five matches so far in New York this year, he has not lost serve once, a run of 67 games."

    With so little hope, or at least so little media support, what is the key to the Frenchman advancing to the finals of the year's last Grand Slam?

    It's not what Gasquet himself thinks, as noted in a U.S. Open interview:

    And I knew I had to be aggressive. My backhand was working very good today. I think it was the key of the match. I played a lot of down the line, and it work very good. Yeah, for sure I played aggressive. I knew I had to start well, too, and I managed to do that two shots. And when I'm serving great and I have this backhand, I think I can play well.

    He believes if those two shots are working, he can win.

    That's not true.

    Considering the aforementioned statistic concerning Nadal's service games, the key is breaking that serve. It is a simple equation. No service breaks, no win.

    According to the stat sheet courtesy of USOpen.org, Gasquet only won 39.7 percent of return points against David Ferrer in his last match. That won't do against Nadal. He will need to be much closer to, if not over, 50 percent to have a chance to win.

     

     

Rafael Nadal

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    For Rafael Nadal to achieve victory over Richard Gasquet in the semifinals of the 2013 U.S. Open, he must remember one thing.

    Forget that match against Gasquet when he was 13.

    It could mar his memories of defeating Gasquet all 10 times they have met on the pro circuit. If he doesn't watch the video above, which apparently Gasquet already has, he should not have any worries about making the final.

    Then again, the video does not need to worry him, either. When Gasquet watched it, he had this to say during his post-match press conference after defeating David Ferrer:

    I saw on YouTube that video sometimes. People are talking about this video, you know, when I played against him, against Rafa. YouTube and I can see I'm winning against him, so I don't believe it sometimes.

    If even Gasquet doesn't believe he can beat Nadal despite video evidence to the contrary, the semi will not be a seminal event for the Frenchman.

    Apart from these dire predictions, there is one key to victory for Nadal. He needs to stay confident with his forehand. He has had great success this year with the stroke, and even he acknowledges its importance.

    Per his press conference in New York:

    When I had the forehand I was able to change the directions a lot of times and with a lot of precision. I'm sure that's the way I have to play to keep having chances to be successful in every surface, but especially on this one. I was able to do it today; I hope to be able to do it in two days.

    Nadal averaged 13 forehand winners during his last three matches at the Open. If he does this against Gasquet, he will win again.

Stanislas Wawrinka

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    Stanislas Wawrinka is ready for the next level. The key is that he knows it. Per the U.S. Open:

    Yeah, this year is confidence, for sure. I had tough beginning of the year, but in the same time was really positive for me because I was playing great tennis. I had some tough loss, but I was still working out. I think the title in Portugal against David Ferrer in the final helped me a lot with my confidence to pass the next level. Since then, I'm feeling really good on the court.

    The most impressive thing about this reflection from the Swiss player is that it came before his 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 rout of Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.

    As long as Wawrinka thinks of that win as being his victory instead of Murray's defeat, he is ready to move ahead.

    Unfortunately, many in the media, including Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, are viewing it from the angle of what Murray did wrong, instead of what Wawrinka did right. Clarke's article focused on the Scot's lack of motivation, fatigue and frustration, barely giving his opponent the credit he is due.

    For Wawrinka, that credit is the key to his victory.

    There are no magic statistics or special shots he needs to gain entry to the final of the 2013 U.S. Open. He has the skills and he has earned his ranking.

    All he has to do is keep believing.

Novak Djokovic

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    Novak Djokovic has only lost one set thus far at the 2013 U.S. Open.

    He may not lose another.

    The key to Djokovic's victories has been his run of first-serve points won. In his opening match against Ricardas Berankis, he won 72 percent of the points in which he got his first serve in.

    The bad news for upcoming opponent Stanislas Wawrinka is that the Berankis match was Djokovic's poorest performance of the fortnight. Apart from a brief stretch during his quarterfinal against Mikhail Youzhny, he has been hovering around 80 percent since.

    The serve-and-attack style featured by the Serbian world No. 1 has been honed recently on the practice court. Per the U.S. Open:

    That's, well, one of the things on the practice agenda that we have with our team. We are working on the serve, getting more precise, efficient, and, you know, using the opportunities to just make a winner and come to the net. It worked really well today.

    Whether he follows the big serve to the net or stays on the baseline doesn't seem to matter. It is the overall aggression that is causing so much trouble for the players across the net. AP National Writer Eddie Pells notes, via ABC News, that when Djokovic plays the way he has been, his opponents can't find anywhere to hide.

    If Wawrinka stays out of hiding and faces Djokovic head-to-head, the semifinal could actually get tricky.

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