by Craig Hickman
(1) Roger Federer vs. (12) David Ferrer (ESP)
Ferrer can beat Raja if, and only if, he believes in himself. Ferrer hits flatter than most claycourters, which plays into Raja's hands, but if the Spaniard keeps his head in it (DON'T bet the house!), he's got a puncher's chance. My money is on the Swiss Miss(ter), who just happens to be in a deliciously ornery mood this outing.
Postmatch remarks: Fuck belief. David Ferrer needs to go out and buy some topspin and some length of shot. Not to mention a serve. It was a shellacking, featuring the day's second serving of bagel. And Roger is still in that mood. Even his 500th career victory couldn't bring a smile to his face.
(16) Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) vs. (11) Richard Gasquet (FRA)
Haven't seen a complete Ferrero match, but the former King of Clay dismisses the Frenchman, who's luckier than a Sagittarius in December to be in the quarterfinals given his mental vacuousness and his prior opponents' brazen inability to close out matches.
Postmatch remarks: Despite being down a set and 1-4, Juan Carlos Ferrero never gave up. His ability to weather the ebb and flow of a claycourt match like the former Champion he is paid dividends. Despite Richard's physical ailments, he was able to play great tennis. His reaction time at the net as he tired cost him late in the match. Both players together struck 92 (50 for Richie) winners to only 56 unforced errors (23 for JC). Featuring some of the best claycourt tennis from both sides of the net in the tournament so far, I didn't find myself falling to see. JC seems to be digging back into his old self, stealing the final sets 7-5, 6-2. He loves Monte Carlo, he's won here twice, and he seemed determined to get back to another final.
(10) Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Robin Soderling (SWE)
On this surface, it's a toss-up. Don't wager a thing. Really. A slight edge to the Swede only because he's coming off a Davis Cup victory and he won their last two encounters. But he can crumble quick as stale cornbread. Then again, so can the Czech. Nuff said.
Postmatch remarks: Up 7-5, 3-0, Soderling pulled off the biggest, most Titanic tank I've ever seen on a tennis court. Committed to whacking the ball out, he lost the last twelve games of the match. Stale cornbread doesn't do him justice. Berdych takes the early Christmas present and advances to his first Masters semifinal on clay.
(2) Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. (Q) Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
If the German feels like he's up to it, he will give Nadal all that he can handle. His backhand isn't *sweet,* as some would have you believe. It's vicious. His forehand isn't bad either. He's got confidence, what with his Davis Cup debut win against Belgium Easter weekend. Could be the match of the day. Nonetheless, *unbeatable* Nadal will get one step closer to defending his title, even if he has to break the German's momentum with his calculated and now legendary stalling tactics to do so. Besides, Kohlschreiber, as a qualifier, has played three more matches than Nadal so far this week.
Postmatch remarks: Forget the scoreline. This match was actualy pretty competitive and well-played. The qualifier stuck to his gameplan. An exciting player to watch, he served-and-volleyed, attacked Nadal's backhand, went after second serves, ripped his own backhand to vicious angles. In short, he kept the pressure on Nadal from first point to last, saving four match points on his own serve at 2-5 in the second set and another on Nadal's serve at 5-3. But Rafa had an answer for everything. And I mean everything. Rafa had to earn this victory with a determination that was quite a bit fiercer than last year when he ruled the terre battue. Short an injury, he won't be dethroned. If you're a FedNut, do yourself a big favor: just fugghetaboutit.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
by Craig Hickman