On Friday, in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters, Roger Federer defeated Juan Monaco 63 75 to reach the Paris semifinals, but more importantly, he won his 800th career match! Before I say anything else, I want to underline how big an achievement this is. For one, he is only the SEVENTH player in the Open Era to win 800 matches, and Roger stands with some great company in there. Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Stefan Edberg stand in front of him. Edberg has 806 match wins, so Roger could very well pass him by the end of 2011. Looking further ahead, Roger could even go onto pass Vilas' mark of 923 to become third all-time in match wins. It all depends on how long Roger plays really, but if he has the motivation and the will to keep playing for another three years, he could certainly rack up 124 more wins and pass Vilas. Of course, Fed has more important goals right now, like the World Tour Finals, the four Slams next year, and winning an Olympic gold, but keep this in the back of your head, will ya Roger?
As for the quarterfinal match itself, Roger was very average. He got down a break early, but broke back and won 5 straight games from 3-1 down to take the first set 6-3. The second set was closer and Monaco fought valiantly, but Roger got the break in the eleventh game to go up 6-5 and then consolidated it to take it 7-5. Overall, it was most certainly not a great match by any means, but a win is a win. Fed wasn't sharp at all from the baseline (although some of those half-volley pickups I couldn't even dream of hitting), but the Maestro's serve and net play helped him win the match. At this point in Roger's career, he has played so many matches that it is completely understandable for him to be off his game on some of them. He also knows better than anyone else on tour how to schedule himself appropriately so that he reaches his peak performance at the right time, namely at the final weekend of tournaments. With how many routine victories Roger has had since 2004 when he started dominating the tour, a win is a win for him no matter how he gets it done.
Since Basel, Roger's serve has been outstanding, winning him many free points and helping him hold easily. And especially against Monaco, Roger came to the net on countless occasions and consistently won the points up there. Fed has always been great at the net, especially in his early days, but ever since Annacone joined him, he has made the effort to attack a lot more and take the points on his own initiative. This is very good as Roger ages, where he will not want to get caught in long baseline rallies which will wear him out.
OK, onto the other days action....
Novak Djokovic withdrew from his QF match against Tsonga, which is in my opinion a selfish move on his part. Novak basically told all of us that he only came to Paris to pick up a paycheck, and that shows a complete lack of respect not only to his opponent, Tsonga, but also to the fans, who paid good money to see the number one player in the world work at his craft. So he had a shoulder injury, big deal. If it was that bad in the first place, he shouldn't have played in the tournament. In typical Djokovic fashion, he proved that he is an entire staircase beyond Roger and even Rafa in the respect and class department. As much as I hate Rafa sometimes, he didn't play in Paris because he knew that he wouldn't be able to give it his all. Very respectable. Novak, on the other hand, came for the money and got out quick like a coward. Perhaps more to the point, how will Djokovic's shoulder affect his play in the World Tour Finals? Logic dictates that he will have more problems with it in the first few matches there, and it could cost him the chance to defend his semifinal points from last year should things get really bad. All in all, Djokovic only hurt himself by risking more injury in Paris. He didn't need to play this tournament.
John Isner defeated David Ferrer 63 36 63 and made his first Masters semifinal, so for that I say congratulations. He plays Tsonga in the semis, who received a walkover from Nole's withdrawal. Tsonga will be fresher, but I have seen first hand what having a walkover can do to a player's game. Their rhythm gets out of sync and they cannot handle the ball the same way. It will be interesting to see how the match goes. I expect a competitive contest either way.
On the other side of the draw, Tomas Berdych defeated Andy Murray in three sets in a three hour plus long match. Good win for Berdych I say, but Murray was primed to lose if you ask me. Not only is he preparing viciously to break through in London, he has already had loads of success post-USO and didn't need any more match prep. Berdych is in good form I guess, but I still don't know how he is #6 in the world. The China Open win certainly had a lot to do with it, but what the heck has he done the rest of the year?
On semifinal Saturday we have two exciting matches: Tsonga vs Isner, and Federer vs Berdych. Personally, I want to see a Federer/Isner final, but I fully well understand that with the circumstances, we could see a Berdych/Tsonga final, which is quite frankly more likely, unfortunately. Berdych always ups his game against Roger, and Fed will need to be sharp as a razor. Isner should give Jo a test but Tsonga has the home crowd behind him and should feed off of that towards the win.
Go Roger! Teach Big Berd a lesson and make your first Paris final! You know Rog, it would really help your confidence, AND, you would gain points too in the rankings! So try to win, okay Feddy?