Soderling-Murray:  Featuring the two fall Masters 1000 champions, the day’s more intriguing encounter holds greater significance for the Swede than for the Scot.  Should Murray suffer a setback here, he will remain confident in his chances against both Federer and Ferrer.  By contrast, Soderling will enter his future clash with Federer as a distinct underdog, so he can’t afford a second loss in what effectively constitutes a double-elimination format.  In their only meeting since February 2006, the new world #4 dominated the former world #4 on the slow hard courts at Indian Wells, seemingly a surface better suited to Murray’s game.  Had Soderling not faltered late in the second set, the scoreline would have looked more emphatic; leading by a set and a break, he squandered opportunities to collect an additional break in the second set before donating a hapless sequence of errors when he served for the match.  Nevertheless, the Scot never seized the initiative from the Swede, displaying an all-too-familiar passivity that he must eschew on the indoor court in London.  Buoyed by his recent triumph across the Channel, Soderling brings greater impetus into the week…but will he rest complacently upon his Paris achievements?  His crackling offense demands not only physical but mental intensity, which might simmer a bit low at the moment.

Federer-Ferrer:  Armed with a 10-0 record against the Spaniard, the world #2 has won ten of the eleven sets that they have played on hard courts.  In the last best-of-five final at the year-end championships, Federer thrashed Ferrer so resoundingly that the advent of best-of-three finals seemed an act of mercy to the Swiss legend’s future victims.  He has descended from that ethereal peak over the past three years, however, as two more arduous victories over the Spaniard have demonstrated.  Last year in London, Davydenko snapped a double-digit losing streak against the GOAT, and Gonzalez accomplished the same feat at the event’s 2007 edition.  Yet Ferrer faces a highly imposing task, considering his opponent’s recent form.  Despite those evaporating match points against Monfils, Federer enjoyed an excellent week in Paris during which he lost serve only once in four matches; before that semifinal loss, he had won 16 of 17 matches since the US Open.  Illustrating his all-surface talents, the durable Spaniard captured the Valencia crown on the same day that the Swiss star collected another Basel title, yet the surface in the O2 Arena should play substantially faster than the Valencia surface.  Curiously, Federer has won every hard-court tournament in which he has defeated Ferrer.  Will he extend that streak here?


We return tomorrow for similar capsules on Djokovic-Berdych and Roddick-Nadal.