Party crasher: everyone knew there would be a Spaniard in the semis. Just not this guy. (Getty/ Torsten Blackwood.)
Christopher Phillips, a regular TSF contributor, weighs in on the semifinal match-ups over the next two days in Melbourne. | More: Lady picks
As Rafael Nadal bows out of the men’s mix, all eyes are focused on the rematch of the US Open semifinal between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Both men are coming off of strong quarterfinal showings as Federer beat countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets and Djokovic handed the same result to former giant-killer Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic has been the more consistent of the two in only dropping one set in his run to the semis (a tiebreak at that) compared to three lost sets for Fed. Though most would say Federer has had the tougher draw in defeating three former top ten players (Gilles Simon, Tommy Robredo and Wawrinka), he looked especially vulnerable in a five-set clash with Simon in the second round. Djokovic has really only had to contend with the up-and-down Berdych and Nicolas Almagro, who’d always rather be playing on clay.
While Djokovic had Federer’s number in New York, I see the relationship between Federer and new coach Paul Annacone continuing to flourish for the Swiss. Roger takes it in five.
At the top half we have one of my favorite (and I think most underappreciated) players in David Ferrer. After Ferrer’s quarterfinal upset over an injured Nadal, he takes on Scot Andy Murray. After seeing Murray’s countless meltdowns in Majors, I very recently claimed that I thought Murray would never win a slam in his career. But with his solid under-the-radar play here, I may be forced to eat my own crow though with perhaps a bit of Aussie vegemite on top.
Murray may have already mentally booked his place in the final, which could spell trouble for him against a player with the consistency, determination and drive that Ferrer has. Ferrer has had to fight more in his run to the semis, so he may be more battle-tested than Murray, but I pick the no. 5 seed in four sets.