Tennis Preview – BNP Paribas Masters Quarterfinals

If you are a tennis fan, you can’t ask for a much better day than tomorrow, with six of the top eight players in the world in action at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.   Baseline Rally sees a couple of upsets and a couple of favorites making the final four at the final Masters event of the year.

TOMAS BERDYCH VS. ANDY MURRAY:

Fifth seed and world #7, Czech Tomas Berdych takes on #2 seed and world #3 Andy Murray in the first match-up of the day.  Tennis fans (and readers of this blog) know that Murray has not lost since the US Open, but a match-up with Berdych has always presented problems for the Scotsman.

Berdych has a 2-1 career record against Murray with Murray’s only win coming all the way back in 2005.  Their most recent match came in 2010 at Roland Garros with Berdych winning in straight sets.  The most telling statistic from that match is that Berdych won an astounding 92% of first serve points against one of the best returners in the business – on clay no less.  While that number of first serve points won by Berdych is unsustainable, it does suggest that Murray has trouble picking up that weapon of Berdych’s.

That having been said, Murray has been playing so well that it is hard to pick against him.  Moreover, his potent return game which may be the best in tennis (although Djokovic fans would argue otherwise) could pose problems for Berdych if he does not get enough first balls in.

This match is too close to call, but based on a hunch and the overwhelming amount of first serve points that Berdych won in their last match-up, I’m going with the upset.

PREDICTION: Berdych 4-6 6-3 6-4

JUAN MONACO VS. ROGER FEDERER:

The second quarterfinal of the day pits two gentlemen who made finals last week as #3 seed and world #4 Roger Federer takes on world #34 Juan Monaco.  Last week, Federer won his home country tournament in Basel, while Monaco lost the finals in Valencia, Spain in heartbreaking fashion to Marcel Granollers.

These two have met twice this year, both times on hard courts, with Federer winning both in dominant fashion.  Fed fans will likely remember that the Swiss maestro steamrolled Monaco 6-1 6-2 6-0 at the US Open a few months back.  A look at the stats from that US Open match shows that Federer won 65% of 2nd serve points – an unsustainable number against a good returner like Monaco.  He also won 60% of points on Monaco’s 1st serve which also won’t be duplicated.

That having been said, when these two played a more realistic match in Miami earlier this year, Federer still won in straight sets 7-6 6-4.  In both matches, Federer won 84% of first service points and I expect that trend to continue.

While Monaco has a nice game, he has no weapons to challenge Federer who is better than him in all areas of the court.  In order for Monaco to even stay competitive he will have to attack Federer’s 2nd serve and have his first serve percentage over 70%.  Even in that scenario, I can’t see Monaco winning the match.

PREDICTION: Federer 6-3 6-4

NOVAK DJOKOVIC VS. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA:

World #1 Novak Djokovic takes on local hero and world #8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next quarterfinal match in Paris.  These two have played many classic matches against each other with Tsonga leading the overall series 5-4.   However, Djokovic prevailed in both meetings this year with Tsonga retiring in Montreal and Djokovic winning a tight match in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The numbers from their last few matches show that we can expect Tsonga to win about 67% of first serve points and about 47% of second serve points.  Usually, numbers along these lines would not be enough for a player with a middling return game like Tsonga to win a match.   On the other hand, Djokovic typically wins 73% of 1st serve points and 58% of 2nd serve points against Tsonga.  Looking at these numbers, and Djokovic’s form this year, he would be the overwhelming favorite.

That having been said, Djokovic has not looked at his best this tournament.  He struggled to get going in his round of 16 match-up against countryman Victor Troicki before taking over in the 3rd set.  Couple that with Kei Nishikori dismantling him last week in Basel, and I think that Djokovic’s historic season is starting to take a toll.

Tsonga, who will be riled up by the hometown crowd, will play his trademark attacking style, and I believe that it will be enough to beat a tiring Djoker.

PREDICTION: Tsonga 7-6 3-6 6-4

DAVID FERRER VS. JOHN ISNER

The last quarterfinal has world #5 David Ferrer taking on world #25 John Isner.   Ferrer typically feasts on big serve, big forehand players like Isner (he went 4-0 against Milos Raonic this year), and his history against Isner suggests more of the same.

Ferrer has played Isner three times in his career, all on hard courts, and has won all three.  In reviewing their match stats, it is clear that Isner’s trademark, his serve, does not work as well against Ferrer.  The Spaniard is an expert at putting balls in play, and the more balls put in play against a guy like Isner, the better your chances are of victory.  Against Ferrer, Isner only manages to win about 68% of first service points and his return numbers are actually worse than usual as well.

Expect Ferrer to frustrate Isner at every turn with his shot variety and tremendous defensive tennis.  Isner likely will not have any answers unless Ferrer is fatigued by his recent intense schedule.  Ferrer should win handily.

PREDICTION: Ferrer 6-3 6-3

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  1. Wow, I had no idea the H2H between Berdych and Murray was in favor of Berdych. I’d previously thought this match favored Murray more, but you have a good point that Berdych will make life tough for him. He seemed to struggle a bit yesterday against Tipsarevic, so I guess it depends on which version of Berdych shows up today. If Berdych’s last win over Murray came at RG, that may be another reason why he’s favored to take the match (since the Paris courts have been slowed down this year). Interesting match I will definitely try to catch!

  2. The head-to-head between the two is interesting since they have only played three times – with two of those three meetings coming in 2005 and 2006. But I think the Roland Garros match might be telling, given that Berdych won in straights and that Murray was handcuffed by his first serve (and Berdych served under 50% that day). I was hesitant to pick Berdych because Murray has been playing so well. Very excited to see how this match goes.

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