It was supposed to be a straightforward match capsule in praise of the GOAT with the inevitable “Pick:  Federer” looming at the conclusion.  Instead, our fingers somehow typed the heretical words “Pick:  Berdych” at the end of the sentence, a unforced error that went unnoticed by ourselves until after the match had started–too late to change it.  Two and half hours later, our expression looked approximately like Maria in the picture above, after the Czech monolith had turned our unforced error into an ace by recording the most impressive win of his career (more impressive than his 2004 Athens win over Federer because of all that has happened in both of their lives since then).  Kudos to Berdych for laughing off his excruciating near-miss at 5-5 in the tiebreak and remaining positive after all hope seemed to have evaporated.  When a match looks close in the future, by the way, we’ll bring back this tactic of telling you how a certain player will definitely win before picking his opponent.  You’ll know then that the match will come down to a third-set tiebreak.  😉

Back to the business of our crystal ball with the four quarterfinal matches tomorrow:


Tsonga (8) vs. Nadal (4):  While Tsonga has efficiently bulldozed his first three opponents, Nadal has followed a more tortuous path through the draw, rallying from a one-set deficit against Nalbandian before surrending early leads in both sets against Ferrer.  Searching for more “calm,” he continues to struggle with recurrent lapses in focus.  The Frenchman possesses plenty of weapons to smother Rafa, from his booming serve to his nuclear forehand and feathery volleys, all of which he showcased in a semifinal rout at the 2008 Australian Open.  At the same time, it’s worth noting that Tsonga is the only player ranked in the top 10 whom Nadal has defeated since his French Open loss last year; moreover, he has defused the big-serving games of Karlovic and Isner earlier this year.  The Spaniard will need effective passing shots to neutralize Tsonga when he hurtles toward the net like a TGV.  He also can’t afford to meekly donate service games as he did against Ferrer.  Will Rafa rise to the occasion after having played his way into the tournament, or will Tsonga escort him to the door with a beaming grin and a bear hug?  If he starts on fire, it could be over quickly, but I think that the Spaniard will be able to catch his breath and settle into the match.  It probably will be decided by a few crucial points, and there aren’t any better clutch players than Nadal.  Pick:  Nadal, tentatively.

Roddick (6) vs. Almagro (33):  Credit Almagro for exploiting the void created by Djokovic’s untimely demise and vaulting himself into a hard-court Masters Series quarterfinal.  Credit Roddick for building upon his Indian Wells success and rebounding from his disappointment on the final Sunday there.  Who will earn extra credit?  With the crowd behind him, Roddick should survive the sporadic showers of winners off the Spaniard’s picturesque groundstrokes and earn enough comfortable holds to prevail in two well-contested sets.  Pick:  Roddick, confidently.


Stosur (9) vs. Clijsters (14):  Perhaps determined to right the wrongs of Melbourne and Indian Wells, Clijsters has dropped just seven games in six total sets here.  Meanwhile, Stosur labored through her first two matches before snapping Jankovic’s winning streak in an impressive straight-set victory that reversed their clash in the desert.  The Belgian can’t afford to wobble on serve as she occasionally has this year, since the Australian will be difficult to break.  When the rallies begin, however, Clijsters has many more options than the rapidly ascending Stosur.  Unless the latter enjoys a sensational serving day, her programmatic style will fall short against the US Open champion’s fluid athleticism and crisp technique.  Pick:  Waffles.

Henin (W) vs. Wozniacki (2):  Not often is an unseeded wildcard favored against the world #2, but a delicious all-Belgian semifinal (remeber Brisbane) seems likely.  Although Wozniacki has dominated her own generation as well as the rank-and-file among the veterans, she has yet to score a major win against a champion of Henin’s pedigree.  Occasionally, she still seems a little intimidated by the situation when she finds herself confronting big names on big stages, like the Indian Wells final.  Her sturdy but punchless game will provide an ideal measuring stick to assess the progress of Henin’s enhanced aggression.  Can the Dane keep retrieving balls and prolonging rallies until her more famous foe blinks?  It’s not inconceivable, but Henin’s form here has been scintillating, as Dementieva and Zvonareva can attest.  Pick:  Allez!

Enjoy the quarterfinals!  Let’s cross our fingers that we extend our splendid 34-7 record.  🙂