So the Top Four men are in the semifinals at the Australian Open. Any surprise there? Nope. I was going to make predictions prior to the quarterfinal matches, but then considered it pointless. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray were all slam dunks to win. Who could argue? The semifinals aren’t quite so easy to predict. Mostly because we’re dealing with the best of the best. The first semifinal — Nadal versus Federer tomorrow night — is a tournament director’s dream. The two haven’t met in the semifinals of a major since the French Open in 2005. Nadal holds a 17-9 edge over Federer, and since 2008 has basically owned the Swiss Maestro, posting an 11-3 mark. Such dominance would seem to make the No. 2-ranked Nadal the favorite. Federer, however, has been the hottest player on the tour since he lost to Djokovic in the semifinals of the U.S. Open in September. The No. 3-ranked Swiss has a 24-0 record since. The only blemish is a walkover in the semifinals at Doha earlier this month. A balky back didn’t allow Federer to take the court against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for that match, but he hasn’t had any recurrence in Melbourne. Nadal came into the tournament with some question marks, too. A sore left shoulder has bothered the Spaniard since late last year, and then just before the tournament started he freakishly tweaked his right knee while sitting in a chair. Nadal has played with the knee heavily taped since then, but it hasn’t appeared to bother him. Neither has the shoulder. Federer has buzzed through the draw without losing a set and absolutely dismantled Juan Martin del Potro in the quarters. Nadal has been pushed a bit and spent more time on the court while winning his matches. He was a point from going down two sets to love in his 4-hour, 16-minute four-set quarterfinal win over Tomas Berdych. I see Federer’s roll continuing with a five-set win over his archrival. On the other side of the draw, Djokovic and Murray will contest their semifinal Friday night. Coming off an astounding year, Djokovic appears to still be Djokovic. In other words, No. 1 and invincible. He did drop a set to Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round, but really has never been in trouble in any of his matches. Murray, still looking for his first Grand Slam title, hired on former No. 1 Ivan Lendl as his coach at the start of the year. It’s doubtful the Lendl effect will kick in this soon, but his presence in Andy’s corner certainly can’t hurt. Murray, back at No. 4 after a brief climb to No. 3 last fall, started the year with a win at Brisbane and has had a relatively easy ride to the semis. He dropped the first set of his opening round match to young American Ryan Harrison, but has played flawlessly since. Still, I think Nole has too much game for the Scot and will win in four.
Djokovic and Federer on Collision Course to Meet in Aussie Final
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