(November 9, 2012) -- This week in London at the ATP World Tour Finals, Novak Djokovic seems to be
playing the game of “anything you can do, I can do better” with British favorite Andy Murray. The Serb did it the other night when he squeaked out a 7-5-in-the-third win over Andy in their Group A battle, and Friday did much the same: he and Murray both won 6-
2, 7-6(3) over Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, respectively, but it was Djokovic who saved set points in his breaker, winning five straight points against Berdych after trailing six points to three.
But it was that former match, the Djokovic-over-Murray one, that really mattered: Andy did what he needed to do Friday to assure a birth in the semifinals, but his fate was already sealed having lost to Djokovic earlier in the week. What fate? Roger Federer, of course.
As the men in Group B play their final day of round robin Saturday, the ladies in Pune, India are set for their semifinals. A look ahead at both draws below:
BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: (Draw)
Of anyone, Mr. Tall Guy Juan Martin del Potro faces the tallest task this coming weekend. His final round-robin match is against Federer on Saturday afternoon, and he needs a win to assure a semifinal birth. David Ferrer, who beat Del Potro earlier in the week, gets the lackluster (and suddenly uninspiring) Janko Tipsarevic in his final round robin. Both JMDP and Ferrer are 1-1 so far.
This is how is should all go: Federer will take care of Del Potro (it won’t be easy) and he will keep safe his top seed in Group B, meaning he gets Murray in the semifinals. Djokovic, the No. 1 seed out of Group A, will get Ferrer. Yes, a Serb, a Swiss man, a Briton and a Spaniard in the semis. No, not the Spaniard you expected, but still, it works.
But from there the weekend becomes a mystery. Sunday’s semifinal between Murray and Federer will be the marquee match, and the Brit will have the advantage both of an extra day of rest (cue the U.S. Open rest argument) and the home crowd. O2 Arena has been simply electric this week, as we expected it to be, and will be pulling for Andy in full force.
The same demons that snuck into Murray’s game prior to his Olympic-U.S. Open dream double are still present in his game: he gets tight, his legs feel like jelly (“jellay!”) and his tendency to miss on the big points remains. Barring a Federer Olympic-like meltdown (or multiple forehand misfires wide), Murray will not only need
to serve well, but dictate play the way he was able to throughout the US Open (let’s forget those two jellay! Djokovic sets).
It’s hard to shoo away both JMdP (in the RRs) and then Ferrer (in the semis), but when dealing with The Big Four on the backend of A Big Tournament, that’s what tennis has become accustomed to, and not without reason: last week marked the first time someone other than Federer, Djokovic, Murray or Rafael Nadal won a Masters 1000 (that would be Ferrer) in years. That being said, Djokovic should rise to the occasion against the older Spaniard, who I believe will start to show a bit of his age and more of his tiresome two weeks (now nine matches in just 13 days) and book his place in the final with relative ease.
His opponent? It’s almost a toss up.
Champ: Murray just slips past Rog in the semis, but it’s The Djoker who has the last laugh in London.
ROYAL INDIAN OPEN (PUNE, INDIA): (Draw)
Perhaps the WTA should just call this Royal Indian Open a perfect effort and end it after a one-year run. Why exactly? In the semifinals, you have three of the most recognizable and admired names in the draw in Andrea Petkovic, Tamarine Tanasugarn, and Kimiko Date-Krumm in a tournament that many have rolled their eyes
at for even being held (two weeks after the “season-ending” event).
If this is anyone’s title to win, it’s Petkovic, who a year ago was an arm’s reach from making the WTA Championships and now is ranked outside of the Top 140. After struggling through her opener, the comeback girl has dropped three games in two matches, including a 6-2, 6-0 effort against Nina Bratchikova, the No. 1 seed here who is ranked No. 85. Petkovic will get Elina Svitolina, a Ukranian ranked No. 156, in the semis.
On the bottom half of the draw is what will be one of the most inspiring and exciting WTA semis at a smaller event in a while, in which 42-year-old Date-Krumm takes on Tanasugarn, seven years her junior. That these two, who total 17 years in age and were well-known entities in women’s tennis in the late ‘90s, are staging a semifinal at a WTA event in 2012 is breathtaking enough, but it comes at just the right time for both of them: Date-Krumm was just 4-15 in main draws this season coming into Pune, Tanasugarn was 5-9.
If she stays healthy, Petkovic will win both matches this weekend and her first WTA title since Strasbourg last spring. Indian-inspired Petko dance, anyone?
Champ: Dance Petko, dance!
(Photo Credit: Andy Kentla)