The Tennis Phile

January 25, 2010 12:00 PM

Nadal-Murray Headline Sensational Quarterfinals

3986508.jpgA Grand Slam draw of 128 players is similar to a screenplay before production of a movie commences. The plot lines are clearly drawn, the players can follow the arc of the narrative in front of them as they know who they will play each round and the exciting sequences are structured towards the latter half - that is if the story holds up and the action follows the written word. And after all, most films are not worthy of viewing and most tennis tournaments are bound to be somewhat disappointing.
But not so with this year's Australian Open on the men's side as the quarterfinals are now upon us. A better quartet of matches with the world's top players would be hard to conjure at this point. And each of the eight participants has something to prove - well Roger Federer actually has nothing left to prove, that is until he meets Rafael Nadal again in a Slam final - which is possible in Melbourne this weekend.
But for all the others there are powerful points to be made -- is Novak Djokovic, who has quietly advanced with ease through the draw, ready to win another Slam; can Andy Roddick perform self-amnesia and rid his mind of his Wimbledon sadness from a year ago; is Marin Cilic ready to fully announce his arrival in the elite; can Jo Tsonga return again to a Slam final and finally deliver on his enormous potential; can Nikolay Davydenko make his first Slam final; and then of course there are Nadal and Andy Murray who play in the featured match late tonight. Nadal desperately wants to take back what he thinks is rightfully his, that being the number one ranking that he had a lock on before a miserable injury ruined his Paris spring and forced him to miss Wimbledon. And for Murray, his desperation is of a different kind. Perhaps no other player the last several years has been labeled as the heir apparent to messrs. Federer and Nadal as frequently as the soon to be 23 year old Scot. Murray has only advanced to one Slam final (at the 2008 US Open where he was summarily dispatched easily by Federer) and the groans from Slam-title-starved Great Britain will grow exponentially if he doesn't deliver on his supposed promise soon.
If Murray is to beat Nadal tonight he's going to have to play more aggressively than he is accustomed. With a 2-5 record against the Man from Mallorca, it is imperative that Murray attempt to keep Nadal on the defensive and not allow the Spaniard to force the match into a physical contest. If the late night drags on and on, that is a sure sign for a Nadal triumph as his conditioning and stamina is another quality that separates himself - along with The Roger - from the rest of the field.  For Nadal's part, he'll have to vary his serve with greater frequency against the best returner in the sport. If Murray senses a routine from Rafa's deliveries, he'll then feel free to take more chances and seize control of the match early from the Spaniard.
Whatever the case, it should be a superb match, as all the quarterfinals look to be.
Quarterfinal matches:
Tonight:  Roddick-Cilic, Nadal-Murray
Tomorrow night: Djokovic-Tsonga, Federer-Davydenko

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