Tuesday Tennis

murray0020607_468x835 After three minor tournaments last week, all the big guns will come out for the Masters Series Madrid this week. Andy Murray takes over the #3 ranking for the first time ever, also the highest ranking for a British player ever. Murray has an outside chance at becoming the second ranked player if he plays exceptionally well, and Roger Federer has an epic failure at Madrid this week.

Federer won his first match, looking impressive in the first set, yet once again relaxing in the second set against Robin Soderling. After a 20 minute first set, there’s no reason in the world Federer should have been down a break in the second, but this is just vintage Fed since the middle of last year, when he lost to Gilles Simon twice. Fed just seems to just get too complacent out there.

USA-Flag James Blake made it to the final of a clay court tournament last week. Unbelievable, Blake really responded to my rant a few weeks back, didn’t he? It seems like he got sick of suffering those embarrassing losses to less talented players, and finally decided to do something about it. But, Blake, after you beat Nikolay Davydenko in the semis, please finish the job and win the tournament against Albert Montanes. How hard is that? The streak continues for Americans on European soil. No American has won a clay tournament in Europe since 2003. Speaking of Americans, Sam Querrey picked up a nice win over Radek Stepanek in the first round of Madrid. Querrey, may be the best chance Americans have of going deep in the French Open this year. He seems to actually enjoy the clay, whereas Blake admittedly loathes it, and Andy Roddick is… umm… on vacation… he will finally play Tommy Haas in his first clay court match of the season tomorrow.

Madrid Predictions:
Quarterfinals
I like Federer to come through to the quarters with no real challenge in the early rounds. He will take on Nikolay Davydenko, who will beat Andy Roddick in the round of 16 despite a terrible career record (1-5) against Roddick. Keep in mind the one match Davydenko won was the last match they played. Also remember that they practically never play on the clay because Roddick doesn’t make it deep enough into clay tournaments. Roger Federer beats Davydenko in straight sets to move to the semis in another masters series – the round that has plagued him this season with heartbreaking losses.

Juan-Martin Del Potro faces a tough draw with Berdych and Wawrinka before the quarters, but he’s ultimately more consistent than the two. This may tire him out, however, for his match against Andy Murray. Murray will take down Tommy Robredo in the round of 16 with relative ease, like all top-tier players do. He will go on to beat Del Potro in straights after DP becomes tired due to a lengthy match with Wawrinka.

Novak Djokovic knows he needs to bring his “A game” if he wants to get back up to #3. He will make the quarters easily and face Gilles Simon, who has been struggling lately. Djokovic makes easy work of Simon in straight sets.

The final quarter will pit Rafa Nadal (of course) against Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco may have a tough challenge from David Ferrer in the round of 16, which may slow him down a bit. It seems like Verdasco keeps getting placed in the same quarter as Nadal every tournament since their epic Australian Open semifinal. Verdasco’s 0-8 career record against Nadal will not get any better. Nadal wins.

Semifinals
So go ahead and say it: how original, I have Federer vs. Murray and Nadal vs. Djokovic. The thing is, these four are just so far above the rest of the field, any one of them not making it would be a major upset. Murray is probably the most questionable, especially with a very capable Del Potro in his quarter, but I don’t see the other three losing before this at all. Nadal beats Djokovic in a tight contest, while Federer gets over the hump and proves a point to Murray.

Championship
Nadal vs. Federer – Roger I’m begging you to win, I’m praying for you to win, but in reality, I know Rafa owns you. And he doesn’t just own you in terms of actual play, he owns you psychologically and emotionally. Overcoming Mr. Nadal is just too much to ask from Federer at this point, especially in a non-major tournament. Nadal wins 6-2, 6-3, and that 3 is out of respect for the Rog.

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