While everyone was excited that the Top 8 players in the world made it for the first time ever in ATP's history (over 35 years) to the quarterfinals of a tournament most were secretly (or not so secretly) hoping for the usual Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal final. When both the World No. 1 and No. 2 players were eliminated in quarterfinals there was some disappointment, but also some excitement in seeing some new faces in the semis. Well, some relatively new faces.
One semi-final saw Andy Murray playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the afternoon match. Murray managed to dispose of Tsonga in two sets, which he was probably very happy about because the afternoon on court temperature reached 39 degrees Celsius. The second and night time match saw the familiar face of American Andy Roddick facing off against Argentinean Juan Martin Del Potro. It was an anticipated match as these two had just played against each other one week ago in the finals in Washington. Del Potro had won and Roddick would be looking to exact some revenge.
Roddick is in the finals of the Rogers Cup for the 3rd time and won it all in 2003. Del Potro has never won an ATP Masters tournament; he has never even been to the finals in one. Roddick definitely has the advantage of experience over his younger opponent. Roddick also has the advantage of being in better shape. The 26-year-old has recently dropped 15 pounds and improved his fitness level. The opposite is the lanky Del Potro, who has been complaining all tournament about how tired he is. It was a hot and humid night at Uniprix Stadium. Advantage once again Roddick. The strategy of Roddick has to include moving the Argentinean around the court a lot. Del Potro moves excellently from side to side for a big man, but he is weaker at moving forward, so this means that we could see some drop shots from Roddick. Surprisingly, whenever Del Potro came to the net during the match he did well. He is a nice smooth volleyer and it is hard to pass him due to his large wingspan.
The two Top 10 players have only met twice before and Del Potro is 2-0. He is one of only two of the Top 50 players who Andy Roddick has not won against. Del Potro (20-years-old) is 6 years younger than Roddick, is 6'6" with a huge wingspan, and a huge serve. Both men are excellent servers, so on this day no one watching was expecting many breaks of serve.
Demonstrating that he was anxious to play and taking it seriously, Roddick was pacing around behind his baseline for about 1 minute before the match began. Del Potro was the total opposite calm and stoic looking. He remained this way for most of the match. Roddick served first and held easily, then Del Potro did the same, then Roddick, then Del Potro, and so on. Del Potro is serving big and racking up the aces. Roddick, who holds the world record for the fastest serve – 255 km/h, is also serving well. The match was living up to expectations – hard serving and plenty of baseline play. Finally, in the 10th game Del Potro goes down 0-40 giving Roddick triple set point chances. Roddick does break him and wins the 1st set 6-4.
You could see that Roddick was trying to keep the ball down low, making Del Potro bend down to make returns. The idea behind this is that this will eventually tire Del Potro out and because he hits a relatively flat ball it will cause him to hit up on the ball to get it over the net causing some mishits.
Del Potro looks tired at the end of the 1st set, like Roddick's strategy to wear him out is working. But suddenly at the beginning of the 2nd set with Roddick serving first, Del Potro gets his second wind and has triple break points of his own. He breaks Roddick for a 1-0 lead. After holding his own serve easily, Del Potro has another break chance in the 3rd game and succeeds. It is extremely rare for Roddick to have his serve broken twice in a row. Now Del Potro looks the fresher of the two. Del Potro is consistently sending his groundstrokes deep to the corners. Roddick must be surprised about the consistency. He has got to take the power off of Del Potro's shots and mix things up. Del Potro has quite a tempo going. Each man now holds their serves to the end of the 2nd set which Del Potro wins easily 6-2.
Momentum has swung decisively over to Del Potro and away from Roddick. Roddick serves first and has to re-establish dominance on his serves. He starts the 3rd set with a double fault. Roddick rights his ship and manages to hold his serve for a 1-0 lead. The two continue holding their serves for a while. Neither giving a inch or backing down from their game plans. It has now become a battle of will, skill and nerve.
Finally in the 11th game one man blinks and it is Roddick. Roddick is serving and gives Del Potro double break points. He saves one, but double faults (only his second of the match and it is at the worst possible time) to give Del Potro a break and a 6-5 lead. After the double fault Roddick smashes his racket into the ground in frustration. It is broken, so he will have to play the pivotal 12th game down a break and with a new racket.
Del Potro is serving for the set and the match. The pressure is on and we will see how he holds up against it. Despite the fact that they have been on court for over 2 hours Del Potro is still able to serve at speeds of up to 226 km/h. Unfortunately for Roddick he does not seem to be wilting under the heat or pressure. Del Potro has double match point. Roddick, who never gives up and goes quietly, fights one off, but cannot do the same with the second. Del Potro wins (4-6, 6-2, 7-5) and is off to the finals against Andy Murray.
This was a match that featured three tough sets. Both men are powerful and have blazing 1st serves. It was close throughout with both men having a chance to win, but Del Potro being the one with more consistency and Roddick's game breaking down at important times. Hopefully the finals features this kind of high level tennis.