The final four of the final ATP tournament has finally been decided after Nikolay Davydenko defeated Robin Soderling in a tight, three-set contest.
The round-robin matchups were thrilling, with all the matches in Group A going the distance, while most encounters in Group B—barring the ones involving Rafael Nadal—also went down the wire. The quality of tennis was breathtaking at times, while above average during others.
Most importantly, there was never a dull moment during any match, especially the ones on days five and six, as none, apart from the Swede, was assured of the spot till the final point of each respective group was played.
In short, things have happened exactly the way they should happen when the top eight players meet for the most prestigious tournament after the four majors. The ATP will be jubilant in its decision to move the championships to a brand new arena in London, and its popularity will only increase in the years to come.
Celebrations aside, the final three matches of the year are still to be played, and they will be widely anticipated after the initial success of the round-robin matches.
Semifinal No. 1: Roger Federer vs. Nikolay Davydenko
On paper, it will be hard to find many contests which can be more one-sided than the first semi. Not only does Federer boast an unscathed record against the Russian in each of their 12 meetings, the four-time champion has dominated the Russian effortlessly by squandering only four out the 32 sets played between them, the last time being almost four years ago at the Australian Open in 2006.
The present scenario, though, is completely different from the one on paper. Davydenko is in the form of his life while the situation is not exactly the same for his opponent. Kolya is serving miraculously (he served at 73 percent against Soderling), even out-acing his opponents at times, and his ground strokes have been accurate and penetrating, both through his racket speed and the angles he is able to create.
Moreover, he is as innovative as ever by taking every chance to come closer to the net and finish the point quickly. His squad has been generous in the support for their man, with his wife cheering him on and showing her enthusiasm through flying kisses for the cameras.
Federer, on the other hand, has shown his brilliance at times, while he has been patchy during the others—still handsomely managing to be the best among the crop. He may have played the Russian with consummate ease in the past, but he knows that this might be the time for Davydenko to finally turn the tables.
The semis will be an exhibition of delightful tennis, with points being constructed rather than blitzed, winners being hit through brilliant angles than a thunderous forehand, while the opponent would be outwitted rather than overpowered. In the end, though, Federer's versatility will prove more than enough against Davydenko's.
Prediction: Federer in three.
Semifinal No. 2: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Robin Soderling
Bombs. Canons. Missiles...Massacre!
The second semifinal may be happening only on a tennis court rather than a battlefield, but it will sure be an absolute warfare where the yellow tennis ball will be crying in pain inside the closed walls of the O2 arena, the echoes of the indoor stadium only aggravating its misery.
Soderling and del Potro are the modern definitions of power baseline players; expect nothing less than power-packed, electrifying tennis from the two. Serves will threaten to take away the line judge along with them, the thundering volume of an ace down the T might scare away a feeble-hearted person, while the forehands will be hit with utmost ferocity, either with an enormous wingspan or through the power generated from an open-chested stance.
Soderling has been clearly the best player of Group B in the round robin, while del Potro is in excellent spirits after achieving his second consecutive victory against the world No. 1.
Motivation will not be a problem as both players have a point to prove to themselves, while fatigue factor can be thrown of the window as they have not exerted themselves to the limit. Del Potro had ample rest before the tournament, hence he should be relatively fresh even after three tight matches, while Soderling breezed past the first two matches and was not overtly worked in the third.
The match will be high on aggression, and eventually the player who executes better during the match will prevail, though the Argentine will hold a significant advantage owing to his more reliable serve and better hands at the net.
A rematch of the U.S. Open finals looks very much on the cards.
Prediction: Del Potro in three.