By Mad Professah
The 2009 Australian Open Men's semifinals are now set. Mad Professah has been too busy with other things to be posting my regular predictions in the last week or so. This Men's semifinal preview (like the Women's Semifinal Preview posted earlier) are my best predictions with the caveat that I have not watched as much tennis this year as usual. Here goes...
Andy Roddick USA (7) vs. Roger Federer SUI (2). Federer has played the American with gigantic serve 17 times and has only lost twice to the recently
married engaged Andy Roddick, although one of those wins was the last match these two relatively friendly competitors played. Roddick has to be on something of a high after outlasting the defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinal round, garnering revenge against the person who knocked him out in quarterfinal of the US Open last year. Federer has not been kind to Roddick in the past, calling him "a great server" (in comparison to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, whom he called "a great player"). Roddick has been working with a new coach (Larry Stefanki who previously coached Fernando Gonzalez) and over the last two years or so (*cough* Jimmy Connors *cough*) has markedly improved his backhand and (much more recently) his movement.
Federer is "The Mighty Fed," and although he faced a near-death 5-set experience against the perennially dangerous Tomas Berdych in the 4th round he followed it up by delivering a vicious beatdown to world No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro and there's nothing to indicate his desire to win majors has diminished since his ranking has slipped from the lofty No. 1 spot to the current No. 2. He is in his 19th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal and the only final the Swiss player has missed since the 2005 French Open was last year's 2008 Australian Open final (after losing to eventual champion Djokovic)!
Roddick will not be able to prevent the 13-time Grand Slam champion from competing for his record-tying 14th major title.
PREDICTION: Federer in 4 sets.
Rafael Nadal ESP (1) vs. Fernando Verdasco ESP (14). Somehow in the middle of the Australian Open 2009 was a Davis Cup match between Spain and France, and as Craig pointed out, Spain was the victor 2-0. Yesterday, I had expected that "Willie Ali" would be able to force a repeat of last year's breakthrough semifinal showdown with Nadal again but "Hot Sauce" was poured all over that prediction. Melbourne is undergoing an excruciating heat wave which has claimed the defending champion as one of its victims. But Fernando Verdasco is even hotter. And I'm not just talking about his blistering 130 mph serves and insane forehand. He's a 6'2", 180 pound, Spanish lefty in top physical shape who wants this so badly he spent Christmas day training for four hours ten thousand miles from home in Nevada. Tsonga is extremely talented, but he seems to share the particularly French affliction of not putting in the tough conditioning work so that he can hang for 5 sets with anyone. Verdasco took out the 2008 Australian Open finalist with relative ease one round after taking out the 2008 U.S. open finalist Andy Murray for his first win ever over the canny Scotsman, to become the No. 2 player in the Spanish Armada.
Unfortunately for Verdasco he is playing the No. 1 player from Spain and the world No. 1. Nadal circa 2009 is not the same player as Nadal 2008. What is scary to recognize is that 5-time Grand Slam champion Nadal is a mere 22 years old at the top of the Men's game and he is still improving. His serve is becoming more efficient and his forehand is becoming more varied. Not only does he have the ability to impart ridonculous spin on the ball (from any part of the court) but he has developed a blistering flat forehand as well, while although not the hardest and fastest in the game, is definitely in the conversation. His backhand is no longer a weakness in his game, it is now an effective weapon and he has the edge in mental toughness over everyone he plays. Everything Verdasco can do, Nadal can do better. However, Nadal has only played the Australian Open four times and knows he can lose down here, since he has done so four times. Verdasco has the belief, forged in the burning plains of the Nevada desert in December, that he can win. But he won't.
PREDICTION: Nadal in 5 sets.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
By Mad Professah