Tennis Preview – BNP Paribas Masters Semifinals

Despite the fact that the BNP Paribas Masters lost a quarterfinal match today with Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal, it was a terrific day of tennis.  Andy Murray finally lost a match in a three set epic to Tomas Berdych.  John Isner scored a stunning upset against Spaniard David Ferrer, proving that he is more than just a big server. Finally, Roger Federer had the easiest go of it with a hard fought straight sets victory over Argentine Juan Monaco.

The semi-finals are now upon us and Baseline Rally’s picks to make the finals are still alive.   I still expect a Federer vs. Tsonga final, although it certainly won’t be easy.

ROGER FEDERER VS. TOMAS BERDYCH:

In the first semi-final of the day, 16-time grand slam champion Roger Federer meets Czech #1 and world #7 Tomas Berdych.  These men have met 13 times in their career with Federer holding a 9-4 edge.  However, in recent history, Berdych has been able to overcome Federer, winning three of the last four meetings between the two.  Moreover, the only Federer victory in their last four matches needed a final set tiebreaker to decide the contest.

In looking at their recent history, it is clear that Federer has trouble with Berdych’s big first serve.  At the Masters tournament in Cincinnati earlier this year, Berdych had a relatively easy 6-2 7-6 victory in which he won 86% of first serve points.  In that match, Federer won only 25% of his 2nd serve points, a number which is not sustainable for Berdych, and which is not a trend that we can expect to continue.

The most recent match-up where both players played to form was in Toronto last year when Federer won 6-4 5-7 7-6.  In that match, Berdych captured 77% of first service points, while Federer won 49% of his 2nd service points.

If recent form is any indicator, Federer holds a slight advantage.  Federer has not lost a match since bowing out at the US Open with his tournament victory in Basel last week and his semi-final appearance this week.  Berdych recently won the tournament in Beijing before two early round exits in Shanghai and Basel.

I expect both men to hold serve quite easily for the majority of the match, with Federer coming up bigger in the big points.  While Berdych recorded a big victory over Andy Murray today, he struggled converting break points and set points.  If this trend continues, Federer will take advantage.  Look for Federer to win a tight match.

PREDICTION: Federer 7-5 4-6 6-3

JOHN ISNER VS. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA

In tennis’ equivalent of a heavyweight fight, two of the biggest hitters in the game face-off in the semi-finals as American John Isner takes on local hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.   This is only the second meeting between the two players with Isner winning their only previous match-up in Washington in 2009.  While Isner won the match in three sets, Tsonga actually won more points and Isner needed tie-breaks to win both his sets.

In looking at the numbers from their previous match-up, it should come as no surprise that both players held serve quite easily.  In fact, Isner was unable to break Tsonga’s serve at all in the match (and Tsonga was only able to break once).  Tsonga was able to win 86% of first serve points back in Washington while Isner took 78% of first serve points and 62% of 2nd serve points.

While Isner has been playing fairly well from the baseline in this event, it is still clear that Tsonga’s all-court game is far superior to Isner’s.  He will likely have trouble breaking serve since his return game is not his strength, but I expect Tsonga to do just enough with his returns to win the match.  This may be a marathon but I like Tsonga to win.

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

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