As predicted, the 128-player draw has been narrowed down and it’s the top 4 players in the world who will face off against each other: Rafa-Fed and Novak-Muzz.
QF Combativity Award (Rafa defeats Berdy)
Given the limited pool of remaining players, this is the last edition of the 2012 Oz Open Combativity Award. This QF Combativity Award goes to —- Tomas Berdych! I know, he behaved pretty despicably in his R4 match against Nico Almagro. He defied the basic laws of sportsmanship by refusing to shake Nico’s hand after he had won their match. In spite of all that, I actually think he gave the most unexpected and impressive performance in the QF draw.
At the end of the day, I have a great weakness for the FH. While I might stay up to watch a Nalbandian/Federer/Gasquet/Almagro match, simply to observe the poised and calculated aggression of their BHs, I prefer the straightforward play of a FH, which has its own colorful grace.
Berdy has a hard-hitting style of fast serves and flat FHs that can trouble even a veteran player like Fed or Rafa. Berdy gave us glimpses of his potential in 2010 (his victory over Fed at Miami, along with his victories over Fed and Djokovic at Wimbledon), and he showed what gains a Berdy at maximum capacity could reap.
Since then, Berdy dialed in a series of performances that were low-key compared to his hyped-up “potential.” To an extent, Berdy’s style mirrors DelPo’s, except the lows are lower. For the better part of his career, Berdy seems to have been content to settle on a medium somewhere in between high and low (geared more to the “low” setting). There was no reason to expect anything special from Berdy in his QF match against Rafa. Yet, despite his loss, he managed to show up in a big way this match.
Granted, he also showed us all the reasons he’s earned the nickname “Berd-brain” and other obscenities not suitable for this site. Still, the fact that he managed to remain in-step with Rafa is a credit to Berdy’s immense skill, as well as Rafa’s mental strengths in prevailing over the firing squad of Berdy’s groundstrokes.
Berdy showed he is probably the greatest mover among the players who stand taller than 6’4″. There is a slowly growing group of players standing taller than 6’4″. Among them, I can count DelPo, Berdy, Cilic, Karlovic, Raonic, and Tomic. Neither one of them is exactly touted for his on-court mobility. From what I saw, Berdy performed feats of mobility that no one should have expected from a man of his build. Due credit should be given for that.
Berdy received a surprise hug from Rafa at the net, following his loss. In his own way, Berdy may have redeemed himself for his poor sportsmanship in R4.
Here’s a quick round-up of the QF action at the Oz Open:
1.Novak – Ferru:
Djokovic may or may not have injured his hamstring during the match. Either way, the 2nd set of the match took a different turn when he started gesticulating at his body in between points. Frankly, I don’t know what to think about this any more.
If Darwinian justice prevailed, the “injured player” would naturally lose the match. End of story. Yet I’ve seen too many instances of players calling for trainers after an alleged injury, only to be running around at full speed afterwards. The one thing I will definitively say is this: regardless of whether or not a player takes an MTO or is injured, I prefer players who wear a good face on the tennis court. As in, don’t stare at your hamstring and yell and don’t roll your eyes and slump your shoulders like the world is falling. To an extent, this applies to Rafa as well — while I understand Rafa gets asked unavoidable questions about his fitness, I can’t help but feel skeptical sometimes when he describes an ailment as “unbelievably painful.” I don’t think anyone needs to hear that unless the pain is truly, you know, as unbelievably painful as he describes it. And let’s be real, it’s probably not that unbelievable if he’s played through and won matches. It’s a tricky proposition, talking about or playing through an injury concern.
I don’t know what’s wrong with Djokovic’s hamstring, but I will say I’m not at all fond of the marked change in his behavior, which all too heavily depends on whether or not he’s winning said match. Ferru had his chances to take advantage of Djokovic’s drop in form, but unfortunately was not able to capitalize.
Credit to the Spaniard for putting up a tough fight, which may or may not have hindered Djokovic’s health for the rest of the tournament. Really, it depends on the scoreline at Djoko’s next match, whether his hamstring bothers him or not.
2. Muzz defeats Nishikori:
Muzz made routine work of Kei Nishikori, booking himself another SF showing. Muzz has had an unexpectedly easy draw at the Oz Open, but he faces his first true test in his SF against Djokovic. It’s a heavily anticipated match, given the questions surrounding Djoko’s fitness and the expected gains to be reaped from Muzz’s new partnership with Ivan Lendl.
3. Federer defeats DelPo:
My short take on that match is here.
Yer 2012 Oz Open Semi-finalists:
Federer vs. Nadal
Djokovic vs. Murray