Thursday, January 24, 2013

Australian Open: Men Semifinalists

Yesterday I talked about the women's semifinalist and today it's the men's turn. Of course the first semifinal match already happened, but that's neither here nor there.

For the past few years, the top four men have dominated tennis, with last year as the best example of this with all four men splitting the major titles. With Rafael Nadal still out of the game, however, countryman David Ferrer takes his spot amongst the top four and has done extremely well to live up to his high seed. His biggest obstacle prior to the semifinals was another Spaniard, 10th seed Nicolas Almagro, who won the first two sets during their quarterfinal match. But Ferrer hung in there just as Almagro was imploding within having had three opportunities to serve out the match and failing each time. Ferrer's reward of course is to face two-time defending champion and world no. 1 Novak Dkojovic who had a similar scare of his own earlier in the tournament. His fourth round match with 15th seed Stan Wawrinka was the longest of the tournament at more than 5 hours ending 12-10 in the fifth set. The final result spoke greatly to Djokovic's ability to dig deep and win like the champion that he is, but the entire match also became a showcase for Wawrinka's under-appreciated tenacity and talent.

Last year was the breakthrough year for Andy Murray, reaching the Wimbledon finals, winning Olympic gold, and winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open. So it's no surprise that he seems to have carried over his great form last year to the beginning of this year as the only player left in the tournament to not drop a set. Granted, he has also be extremely lucky in not facing more seeded players in his quarters especially 6th seed Juan Martin Del Potro and 12th seed Marin Cilic who both went out in five sets to Jeremy Chardy and Andreas Seppi respectively. Skill and luck are both needed to win one of tennis' greatest prize and he's just one match away from reaching his third consecutive Grand Slam final. His semifinal opponent is 4-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer who has been impressively on cruise control for his first few match amidst very dangerous players, but through the fourth round he hadn't even dropped serve! That all changed during his last match, a 5-set thriller with 7th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that pushed the 17-time major champion to up his level. Winning the match meant that Federer reached his 10th consecutive Australian Open semifinals (on top of his ridiculous streak of 35 consecutive major quarterfinals).

Djokovic and Ferrer already had their match and the defending champion easily demolished the last Spaniard standing in straight sets. I think everyone predicted Djokovic to win, including myself, but I think we were all surprised at how much of a beat down it really was. Federer-Murray is a bit more of a toss-up, however, with their H2H 10-9 in the Brit's favor, but Federer has usually gotten the best of Murray during slams with a 3-0 record. And yet who can forget last year's straight set victory of Murray at the Olympics? I'm rooting for Federer, obviously, but to say I'm predicting him to win would just feel like inviting a jinx so I won't say anything!

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