Weather permitting, World n° 1 Roger Federer and World n° 7 Tomas Berdych will clash for the 16th time this evening, on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the last of a full day of round-of-16 matches to complete and quarter-finals to start in the men’s draw.
As theirs is the second men’s quarter-finals match scheduled today (Andy Murray vs Marin Cilic being the other, technically played during the day session), and considering it’s been raining on and off since the beginning of the day, chances of seeing the match through tonight are pretty slim.
Whether played tonight or tomorrow, this match-up remains one to look forward to, as the encounters between the Czech and the Swiss have been, for the last three years particularly, very tight affairs.
In the overall head-to-head, Roger Federer is leading 11-4. However, since (and including) their round-of-16 match at the Australian Open, back in 2009, when Federer came back from a 0-2 deficit to clinch a tight 4-6 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4 6-2 win, the Swiss only has a slim 4-3 advantage over Berdych, most of them close matches.
Of those seven matches, five of them were on hard courts, where Bredych’s game expresses itself the best, and one each on grass and clay. Berdych took the honours of their Wimbledon quarter-finals match in 2010, and Federer emerged the victor on clay, a few months ago, on the fast blue clay of Madrid.
A game that bothers
If there is one thing that can be said about Tomas Berdych’s game, it is that it seems to bother Roger Federer, as well as most of his opponents, quite a bit. His powerful serve and clean shot making are obviously part of the equation, especially on fast surfaces.
The pace generated by the Czech, particularly from the forehand side, can be quite difficult for any player to handle, more so if the rallies lengthen.
With very quick legs and movement for such a tall guy, Berdych can reach tricky shots at great speed, which is, also, one of the keys to his success of the last few years.
However, the mental part of his game, as well as the tactics he sometimes seems to lack, can play in favour of his opponent, especially if that opponent is, like Roger Federer, known to have many tricks in his bag. After all, Berdych is known to often seem to collapse mentally in key parts of matches, more so when the score is quite close.
What strikes the most when watching Berdych play is that, when he’s trailing or when a match gets tight, his startegy usually seems to be to just hit the ball harder, without much more variation.
For a player like Roger Federer, especially if he’s in good shape, this means that speed, focus, and reflexes are of the utmost importance in order to hold his own serve and, in the end, try and break his rival by turning that extra power to his own advantage, something the Swiss is usually pretty good at.
Who will make it to semis?
Roger Federer, since last fall, has shown an incredible level of play. Admitting to having had confidence issues, his Wimbledon win and return to the top of men’s tennis has clearly restored it.
Furthermore, his game, if possible, appears to be even better now than it was during his years of dominance, having raised its level to that of the top rivals. Rivals who, to compete with the Swiss’s game in the last years, have upped their own level to best it.
Coming to the U.S. Open, Federer had lost only one match since Wimbledon, the Olympics finals, has returned to the n° 1 spot in the rankings, and has been dominating on court in a way we hadn’t seen in a long time, even more so than last fall up to Wimbledon this year.
Berdych, on the other hand, has just started getting back to his level of the beginning of the year, after going through a very rough patch, particularly between Wimbledon and Cincinnati.
He showed a much better form throughout the first four matches he played at the U.S. Open, particularly in the round-of-16, when he defeated Nicolás Almagro, and comes into this match pretty pumped up:
“I was able to beat him three times, so whatever situation it was it just happens. So he’s now strong again and we will see how it’s gonna be, but I think it’s gonna be quite different match than the matches before. You know, I’m different player as well. I’m getting, you know, more experience and, yeah, feeling good. So we will see what’s gonna happen there.”
As for Federer, he comes into quarter-finals without having played a match since Saturday, when he defeated Fernando Verdasco, as he received a walkover from Mardy Fish, who followed his doctor’s recommendation to pull out due to his heart problems, as a precautionary measure.
Will this extra day without a match be any problem for the World n° 1? I don’t think so. He might lack a bit of rhythm at the beginning of the match, but after the first two, maybe three games, I don’t think it will be much of an issue.
What I believe it will be, however, is a great match, one that we really should not miss. My prediction: Federer will reach the semis, in four sets.
Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych will square off last on Ashe Stadium, tonight, after the match between Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic.
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