Federer had a dominant SF victory over Berdych, dispatching the Czech 6-4 6-3. The Paris SF showed Fed at his best, creating angles and hitting backhand winners with beautifully timed footwork. Whether he’ll be able to maintain this level for the final is an open question, as he had a poor showing against Pico Monaco in the QF. If the alternate theory for Fed at Masters events is true (he plays one good match, followed by a bad match), the final against Tsonga will prove difficult.
Tsonga had a nail-biting match against John Isner that lasted over 3 hours and saw Tsonga pull through after saving 3 match points. The match literally had the crowd in rapture, gasping and praying with each Hawk-eye challenge, nervous error, and winning shot. The President of the French Tennis Federation was seen pulling his hair out at one point.
Isner is a bit similar to JMDP in the sense that his “default face” conveys utter exhaustion and sleepiness. Yet he’s also the scariest when he looks down and out, as seen in his earlier defeats over Feli and Ferru. Isner seems to save his best for France, whether it be at Roland Garros or Paris-Bercy. He showed improvements in all areas of his game, particularly his footwork and baseline play.
Given Rafa’s goal of winning the WTF, which has so far eluded him, I’m rooting for Fed to take his first title in Paris. That would be an even distribution of victories for the tournaments left in the season.
Trivia: Paris is one of the few Masters events Fed hasn’t yet won (along with Monte Carlo and Rome). He is now the only player in tennis history to have reached the final of all Masters tournaments. Should Fed win in Paris, he and Andre Agassi would be the only players to have won both Roland Garros and Paris.
Given how the French receive Fed as one of their own, it’d be a nice story if Fed won his first Masters event of 2011 in Paris. The notoriously fickle crowd in Paris will be split between Fed and Tsonga (It was a comically awkward moment at Roland Garros this year, when the crowd rooted for Fed over Monfils).
This year will probably be the last time Fed plays at Paris-Bercy, given the ATP’s scheduling changes for 2012-13. In order to shorten the season by 2 weeks, the ATP has eliminated the “rest week” between Paris and the London WTF. In the event Fed qualifies for the 2012-3 WTFs, he is unlikely to play Paris right before the WTF.
Another surprising fact from this Paris Masters: Federer’s defeat of Pico in the QF marked his 800th career victory, which is higher than the total number of matches played by any active player in the ATP.
Summary: It’s difficult not to resent the guy when his list of career accomplishments plays out like this. Unless of course he loses in Paris, at which the point the talk of his decline will again become the focus.