The top 3 players are once again in the final four of a Grand Slam, but unlike the Australian Open and the US Open last year, the #4 player won't be joining them. Instead, it will be the always-consistent David Ferrer as he tries to do the (nearly) impossible - defeat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
(2) Rafael Nadal vs (6) David Ferrer
I'll start with the Ferrer/Nadal match because it's the most predictable of the two semis. No matter how much I try, I can't really think of a single way that Ferrer ends up winning this match. He is a guy that is competitive against Rafa for a set at a time, and then disappears after that. He took Nadal to a tiebreak in the first set of their recent matches in Rome and Barcelona, lost them, and then Rafa cruised to the finish line. I see the same thing happened in this match; we could see a very tight first set and then Rafa, with how great he has been playing, could run away with it.
At the very least, perhaps Ferrer will have the ability to take a set off The King of Clay. He ha played tremendously well to get to the semis, only dropping a set, and if he can capitalize on his opportunities, he may have a chance (and he will have his fair share of opportunities). In the end, however, Rafa is on a mission to capture his 7th French Open title and he won't let David Ferrer end that mission early.
I'll give David a set, just to be generous.
Nadal def. Ferrer 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
(1) Novak Djokovic vs (3) Roger Federer
This is a rematch of last year's epic semifinal where Federer broke Djokovic's streak of 43 straight match wins. Roger played superb in that match, and he will need to do so again if he wants to repeat history. In that match one year ago, both men were in better form, but that does not mean we won't see another dramatic match this time around.
There are a few reasons why I think Federer is going to win. One, Djokovic has all the pressure on him to capture his 4th straight Slam. Two, he has never made a French Open final whereas Roger has made it to five. Three, Novak seems to be more uncomfortable moving on this Roland Garros red clay than any other surface that he plays on. Last year, Roger utilized the tactic of going behind Nole, wrong footing him, and he ended up being very successful with that.
The biggest factor in the outcome of this match could be what has preceded it. Djokovic has had to come through two incredibly taxing matches back to back, and that toll could be too much for him in the end. I'm not talking so much physical strain as I am mental. Against Seppi, Novak was down two sets to love. Against Tsonga, two sets to one. He saved four match points against Jo, and came through a tough fourth set versus the Italian. If he faces a very sharp Roger Federer, the last thing you want to be is fatigued in any way - that's when the Swiss will jump all over you.
What makes this match interesting is that neither man has played their best to get to the semis. Federer has not found his rhythm (or "riddum" as he says), although he may have found some of it against del Potro which he can carry over (he will sure want to), and Djokovic has been a mixed bag all tournament long. He eased through the first few rounds without struggling, yet he didn't look his best. And then, of course, he has been really pushed vs Seppi and Tsonga and did extremely well to get through those tough tests.
Federer will certainly be motivated to avenge the US Open defeat, and because he is better on the Roland Garros red clay, has had less physical and mental strain, and he can take solace in the fact that he beat Djokovic here last year, when the #1 was arguably better than he has been this year. Whatever happens, it should be very close and (hopefully) very good tennis.
Federer def. Djokovic 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.
Enjoy the matches, and I'll be back to wrap up after their completion.