2011 French Open – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Semifinals
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Federer grinded away against Gael Monfils, taking down the Frenchman in straight sets. He has yet to drop a set in the entire tournament and he has advanced to at least the semis six out of the last seven years. He has really picked up his play as of late and he looks as good as ever. He keeps saying that winning another major will change everything for him and there is no better time than now to make that happen!
Djokovic got the day off when Fognini pulled out due to an injury. He will have not played in four days when he takes the court against Federer, but I don’t think that will effect him. He has been in the zone the entire year and I think facing Roger in the semis of the French Open will be enough to motivate the Serb. There is no doubt that he has been the best player in 2011, but taking out Federer is never, ever an easy task.
Federer is 13-9 against Djokovic, but he has lost to him three times already in 2011. They have met three times on clay in their careers and Federer has won two of those matches. This is definitely the match of the tournament and the hype for it will be unbelievable, I certainly cannot wait! Let’s break down the match…
Forehand – Both players favor their forehands over their backhands and both will run around to hit more forehands. Federer can hit more outright winners, but Djokovic is more consistent and hits with more spin. Pretty even on this shot.
Backhand – Federer is more versatile with his backhand and probably has a better slice, but to me, right now, Djokovic’s backhand is the best in the business! It is a true weapon and their are no weaknesses.
Serve – This is a big key for the match. For Federer to have a chance to win, he must serve well because Djokovic is going to put a ton of pressure on it when returning. If I was Federer I would go for a higher first serve percentage to keep Djokovic pinned back. Djokovic’s serve is nothing to laugh at either and it is probably the reason why he is on the streak that he is. His serve has improved so much over the last year and it is a big time weapon.
Movement - When Federer moves he glides around the court and he looks effortless. This is a big key to his game and he does it better than just about everybody. However, Djokovic’s movement is absolutely incredible right now. His lower body foundation and strength are remarkable and I have to give him a slight edge here.
Mentality – This is going to make a tremendous impact on this match. Federer knows that if he wins here, he is in good shape to win another major and that would be huge. Djokovic cannot let the streak effect his play and must continue to do what he has done all season: take care of business. Whoever can maintain their mental focus will have the upper edge in this match.
Nick’s Pick –I feel this match is going to boil down to Djokovic’s backhand vs. Federer’s backhand. If Federer’s backhand breaks down he will be in trouble and vice versa.
Wow! How can I pick a winner here? How can I pick against the man who hasn’t lost all year and at the same time, how can I pick against one of, if not, the greatest player of all time? I am going to let you make the call! Comment below with your pick and why they will win.
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Andy Murray (GBR)
Nadal played his best match of the French Open in the quarterfinals, beating Robin Soderling in straight sets. This was a fantastic win against a player he has struggled with on clay in the past. To see Nadal play like this again, everyone better watch out! He is now two wins away from his sixth French Open title, which is simply amazing.
Murray has definitely flown under the radar throughout this tournament, but that ends now. He beat Juan Ignacio Chela in straight sets in the quarters to reach the semis of the French Open for the first time in his career. He hasn’t played his absolute best tennis, but he has played well in the big moments and has come up with the key shots and that is all that really matters.
Nadal is 10-4 against Murray and just beat him in Monte Carlo in three sets. In their three career clay-court meetings, Nadal has won all of them. Let’s break down this match…
Movement - I have no words that can fully describe Nadal’s movement. He can slide, recover, do this, do that. It is simply remarkable. It ranks among the very best of the best!
Murray is also one of the very best movers in the game and he may not look the quickest, but he moves deceptively well.
Forehand – Nadal uses an extreme western grip, which is very awkward, with the hitting hand totally under the racket handle. When using this grip, Nadal prefers to make contact with the ball from waist level up, the higher the ball, the more he can hurt you. Keep in mind, this grip produces a great deal of racket-head speed and also heavy spin. When the ball is low, Nadal will use his powerful lower foundation to get under the ball. Nadal also uses a compact circular backswing and on the forward swing he will extend his arm and racket away from his body. Yes, he will have plenty of racket-head speed, but his swing will not go around his opposite shoulder, it goes out and over ending up with the racket-head below his waist. He is able to turn his forehand into a weapon by hitting heavy balls cross-court while also flattening it out at times. I must also point out his cowboy-rodeo forehand follow-through with the racket ending up high above his hitting side. This shot is usually hit off a difficult ball that gets a little behind him.
Murray uses a strong eastern to very weak semi-westen grip on his forehand. He doesn’t generate the same racket-head speed that Nadal does and his balls are hit with moderate spin but with accuracy and consistency. His forehand is definitely not the weapon that Nadal’s is, but he is able to use it to put pressure on his opponents throughout every match. I would like to see him be more aggressive with his forehand when he has the opportunity.
Backhand - Because Nadal is actually right-handed, he uses his top-hand on his two-handed backhand to do the majority of the work. This makes his backhand a truly special shot. Keep in mind that he also has a darn good biting slice and he is very dangerous when he is off-balance or hitting on the run.
Murray’s backhand is as smooth as silk and he hardly ever misses. Again, I would like to see him be a bit more aggressive when he can, but it’s hard to argue with great results!
Serve – When a lefty serves, 99% of the time they have the advantage especially to the ad court. That is definitely the case with Nadal and he has really improved his serve over the last few years.
Murray’s serve is not huge, but he can place it to different positions and he will also pop a few aces when he needs them.
Nick’s Pick –This match will have long rallies which will favor Nadal, putting Murray on the defensive most of the time. Murray must realize his chances of winning crease if he stands closer to the baseline and comes up with some surprise attacks that Rafa doesn’t expect. Murray must go into this match with the mindset that he cannot waste any energy (especially with the bum ankle) and he must remain positive! There is no way I can pick against Nadal on clay. He is remarkable on the dirt and with Murray’s ankle injury, I definitely have to go with the Spaniard but this should be a great match!
I would love to hear how you think this match will go and who you pick!