Roger Federer - Swiss Indoors Basel - Day Seven

Federer vs. Berdych:  Aiming to progress further than ever before in Bercy, Federer could win this title without defeating any of his three major rivals.  Projected to meet Murray in the semifinals, he instead will encounter an opponent who has won three of their last four meetings in a rivalry historically dominated by the Swiss master.  In fact, Berdych probably should have won the fourth meeting in that span (at the 2010 Rogers Cup) before Federer snatched victory from the jaws of defeat much as the Czech had when they met in Miami that spring.  Often unable to showcase his most fearless tennis at prestigious tournaments, Tomas has proved that he can quell his diffidence when he faces Federer on occasions as important as the Olympics and Wimbledon.  Although too sporadic to propel him into true contention with his superiors, that self-belief can surface at unpredictable moments for the 2005 champion.  In his quarterfinal against Murray, one would have expected Berdych to wilt after dropping the first set or after he failed to serve out the second set.  As this battle of attrition lurched into its fourth hour, though, he did not waver in his commitment to an ambitious strategy of attacking the net and the Scot’s serve.  The 192-minute victory may have drained Berdych’s fitness and focus for the semifinal, for rarely do best-of-three matches last so long when won by a player with an affinity for short points.  Likewise preferring efficient tennis, Federer has advanced much less eventfully past three second-tier opponents without dropping a set.  His crisper footwork and overall technique should become even more striking with the Czech’s fatigue, but the player who can scorch his inside-out forehand into his opponent’s backhand on important points should prevail.  Not since 2001 has Federer finished a season without winning either a major or a Masters 1000 tournament, so his recurrent malaise in Bercy may not descend this week.

Tsonga vs. Isner:  While little about the 81-inch giant from Georgia would seem unobtrusive at first glance, he has navigated a pathway to his first Masters 1000 semifinal amidst minimal fanfare.  Only when he ambushed the fourth-seeded Ferrer did Isner capture significant attention, for none of his three previous victories came against a seeded opponent.  Not entirely unexpected because of the surface, that quarterfinal victory over the Spanish veteran defied expectations in one sense:  the American’s superior stinginess from the baseline.  Like most players of his height, Isner generally wields a gawky game as overt and unsophisticated as his outfit this week.  On this occasion, though, he stayed consistent under pressure while committing few of the mental blunders that his inexperience often produces.  From his serve stems his calm, which contrasts with the fireball of athleticism across the net.  Seeking to claim a fourth consecutive French berth in a Paris final, Tsonga thrives upon the enthusiasm of his compatriots and has won three of his seven titles on home soil.  Sometimes lacking in focus, though, he cannot afford a lull against an opponent who holds serve with monotonous ease and maintains leads as well as much more renowned peers.  In their only previous collision, Isner relied upon his own compatriots to edge through a third-set tiebreak, a stage at which his matches often climax.  Few would dispute that Tsonga will offer more scintillating entertainment with his acrobatic arsenal of lunges, leaps, and lashing forehands.  But he would do well to remember the tale of the hare and the tortoise, whose methodical approach Isner resembles.

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