It’s all happening, folks. With 128 pretenders starting out in Round One of the event, we now have four solid charges left who are ready to put forth their last efforts in order to claim French glory.
Out of the four remaining semifinalists, only one man has ever won a grand slam. Any guesses? Something tells me this will not be a “where's Waldo?" moment.
With no further delay let’s get right down to the predictions, and see which of these warriors moves onto Sundays final showdown.
Robin Soderling vs. Fernando Gonzalez
Head to head record: Gonzalez leads 4-3 with a 2-0 win/loss record on clay.
Just for the record I did pick Gonzalez to make the semifinals in my pre-tournament predictions—and no I did not pick Soderling to make it this far. Can anyone say they did?
At any rate, what an opportunity for these two fellas. Similar game styles will collide in a chance to become a French Open finalist. Based on experience and clay court credentials going, Gonzo is the way to go. He has an Aussie Open final result in the bag, as well as numerous titles on clay. Not to mention previous success in Paris.
But how about Soderling? The Turbo (I mean Tibro) native has shown nothing but world-beater results thus far in France. His win over Rafael Nadal is a trivia question being written as we speak, and his wins over clay court comfortable players such and David Ferrer and Nikolay Davydenko weren’t to shabby either.
Does that put him in a position to go all the way? Well, I would be hard-pressed to think otherwise. At the moment Soderling is without a doubt not playing anything shy of the greatest tennis of his career. He has endured ZERO let down after defeating Nadal, and in theory has defeated better claycourts players than his next opponent Gonzalez.
But keep I keep forgetting there is that issue of matches being played on the court and not on paper—haven’t I learned by now?
At any rate, I’m totally on board with slap shot Swede, and only because he has given me no other reason to doubt his once-fragile form on clay. Gonzalez will not go down without a fight in this one, with forehands flying galore—don’t ya worry.
Bottom line, Soderling is meant to reach the final this year, with his groove of fortune lasting at least one more match.
Pick: Soderling in four
Roger Federer vs, Juan Martin del Potro
Head to head record: Federer leads 5-0, and 1-0 in the pair's only clay court match. Federer defeated del Potro as recently as Madrid, where he went on to win the title.
A battle of a couple of top-five boys. With R-Fed licking his chops at the idea of not having his nemesis Rafael Nadal on the other side of the court come Sunday, does the Fed express have enough steam to roll through proceedings come Friday on Chatrier?
I caution you all out there to take this del Potro character quite seriously. He has improved ten folds over the past year, and has posted quality wins over Rafa and Murray in 2009. But will that by enough?
The prime detriment for del Potro in this encounter, and the variable that just might do him in is his 6′6″ frame. Federer has never had any issues with power players, dominating the likes of Gonzalez, Soderling and del Potro (wait, aren’t those all the guys left?), and with del Potro not having the element of versatility in his game (serve and volleying, for instance), the lanky Argentine may be cooked.
Juan Martin also seems to struggle when forced to hit monster serves under pressure. With the edge going to R-Fed when the two engage in backcourt rallies, options start to become scarce for the Argentine.
With Federer never losing a set to del Potro, you would think that Roger has this 20-year old all figured out. Well in this case, he does, and although I like the progress which the 5th seed has been enjoying, I just can’t see him putting up three quality sets to take down the Swiss maestro.
Pick: Federer in straights
With a day off tomorrow of fine tuning their clay court arsenals, let’s all take a minute to take in the week, and get ready for a potential, and probable history making championship Sunday. Enjoy.
You can catch Nima daily at TennisConnected.com