Djokovic-Berdych:  If Soderling entered London with the greatest momentum, Berdych reached the year-end championships with the least impetus of the elite eight.  Since the Wimbledon final, Berdych has fallen before the semifinals in every tournament, whereas Djokovic has soared to three finals (and one title) since August.  Moreover, the Serb should prosper on a medium-speed, low-bouncing hard court that may frustrate the stiff, lanky Czech.  The only first-time singles entrant this year, Tomas nevertheless should take comfort from Novak’s admission that the Davis Cup title supersedes the World Tour Finals as his dominant goal.  Confirming what had been painfully obvious, though, Berdych released his own admission that the pressure of his elevated status had undermined his recent performances.  With both players seemingly ebbing in motivation, their encounter might hinge upon the loser’s frailties rather than the winner’s excellence.  Their two previous meetings in 2010 unfolded in that manner; after Djokovic repeatedly unleashed untimely double faults in their Wimbledon semifinal, Berdych wasted multiple opportunities to establish a convincing advantage in a Davis Cup semifinal clash that he eventually lost.  If the Czech captures this match, the world #3 will find himself in a serious predicament, forced to defeat both Nadal and long-time nemesis Roddick in order to advance.  Unless Soderling defeats Federer, however, the Serb’s top-four ranking remains intact regardless of his fate here.  Despite his preliminary disclaimer, one suspects that his natural competitive instincts might revive when he steps onto the court at an event that he won in 2008.

Nadal-Roddick:  Just 4-7 in his career at the year-end championships, the nine-time major champion seeks to atone for an embarrassing week in London last year, during which he failed to win a set.  Focused on the first half of the season, Nadal generally arrives at this last battle depleted in energy and intensity, yet he emphatically disproved his doubters at the US Open and conceivably could do so again.  Although Roddick should relish the indoor conditions, he may find the court less swift than he would prefer; on the other hand, the world #1 already has expressed discomfort with the low-bouncing surface. In a memorable Miami semifinal this year, the American improved to 3-2 against the Spaniard on hard courts.  At the midpoint of that meeting, however, Nadal had dominated their baseline exchanges and seemed likely to cruise to an uneventful straight-sets victory.  Faltering at 3-4 in the second set, he displayed an uncharacteristic diffidence that emboldened his opponent into an equally uncharacteristic outburst of opportunistic shot-making.  Since Miami, however, Nadal has traveled in a direction starkly opposite from Roddick, who barely qualified for London.  While the Spaniard has soared to three consecutive major titles, the American has endured a summer bout of mono amidst demoralizing Slam losses to Gabashvili, Lu, and Tipsarevic.  Victory probably lies beyond his grasp this time, but a competitive battle would lift his confidence for the two highly winnable matches against Berdych and Djokovic that await.


We return tomorrow with previews of Federer-Murray and Soderling-Ferrer.