”Now you have three big names in the semifinals, and one big guy,” Juan Martin del Potro said after earning his spot in the World Tour Finals semis with his three set victory over Roger Federer on Saturday.
Leave it to the big Argentine to play it humble. Personally, I’m perfectly comfortable with his membership in the “Big Four” this week. He’s a guy who can beat the best at their best – he’s has the results and the Major title to prove it and with Rafael Nadal out of the running, the Argentine is at the very least a scene-stealing understudy for the role.
It sounds tough to say that today’s big loser was David Ferrer, who despite beating Juan Martin earlier in the week was forced to play a dead rubber vs. Janko Tipsarevic after the Argentine’s victory sealed his fate. The match did give Ferrer the opportunity to buff his already sterling reputation for professionalism and grit, rallying to take out the sickly Serb in three sets. The guy won Bercy last weekend and has a big Davis Cup final coming up and he still gives nothing away. The ATP needs to create an award just for him.
Roger felt bad: ‘I really wanted to give (Ferrer) a chance and give myself the best possible preparation for the semis, really hoped I could win (over Juan Martin). But (I’m) more disappointed for (Ferrer) than I am about losing today, to be quite honest.”
So, now that the fond farewells are said and done, we can proceed to Sunday’s semifinals.
I’m really intrigued by the del Potro vs. Djokovic match up. Nole enjoys a 6-2 head-to-head over the Argentine, and beat him in straight sets in their most recent meeting in the US Open quarters. But Delpo has that big Olympics victory to build off of, and he hasn’t let his dismal head-to-head vs. Roger Federer stop him from beating him twice in a row in past weeks. Djokovic’s been perfect in the O2 so far, but del Potro has what it takes to play the cooler. I hope it’s a fun one.
Which brings us to the other semi: Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray. These two have always had an interesting relationship-slash-rivalry, and this match adds an intriguing new chapter. Roger’s taken it upon himself in the past to play the role of distant, slightly disapproving big brother. From skeptical comments about Murray’s defensive style, to reminders about Murray’s record against him in big finals, Roger’s hesitated to lavish praise on the younger star. He wasn’t necessarily wrong in his statements, just startlingly. . . candid. He continued the candor with his pre-semis remarks, though these were lightly tinged with admiration (all via the NYTimes):
“Andy did great (at the Olympics). I always hoped he would have a reaction like this, to be quite honest, even though it cost me maybe a gold medal.
“I was a bit disappointed in his reaction after the Australian Open finals, when I beat him there, then he went on a bad spell I think through Rotterdam, Indian Wells, Miami. He didn’t really play so well.
“Instead of taking positives out of a great tournament, because he was playing great tennis, he took the negatives out of it. I don’t think he did that mistake again after Wimbledon. That’s the sign of a champion.
“So yes, you can say it sort of started for him at the Olympics. He did put himself in positions time and time again in the past and I think he’s learned from his mistakes now. Now he’s up there and he will be for a very long time.”
“I think he played a bit better (at the Olympics) than maybe in the Wimbledon finals,” Federer told reporters.
“Maybe I allowed him to play a little bit better. I just think he set himself a goal, as well, like I did, that we hoped we could win either one, Wimbledon or the Olympics.
“I think his drive was so strong at the end that carried him through. Whereas maybe I already got Wimbledon, I already had the silver, so maybe that last thing was missing, even though I gave it everything I had.
“Maybe deep down somewhere that does affect you. It maybe prevents you playing your absolute best.”
Whoa, Roger, you know you don’t have to say everything that comes to mind in the press room, right? As a Fed Fan, I hope he keeps the Murray psychoanalysis to minimum on Sunday. While I love the peek into Roger’s (or is it his take on Murray’s?) psyche, I worry a bit when Fed over thinks the wins and losses versus a rival. It’s better to keep it simple, like Andy Murray’s doing. When asked about Roger, he said, “His record speaks for itself.”
Sneaky comment really, when you consider Murray’s 10-8 over Roger in the head-to-head, with two recent victories coming in Shanghai and the Olympics. Perhaps both are playing a passive-aggressive game?
One thing that’s obvious, we have two great matches on tap for Sunday, the penultimate day of the ATP’s calendar. Enjoy!