Friday, 10 September 2010

Semi Final Preview: Nadal v Youzhny

As most people expected Rafael Nadal has made it to the semi final stage of the 2010 US Open. On the other side of the net will be, not Andy Murray but first-time Grand Slam semi finalist Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.
Let’s concentrate on the new guy. Currently ranked 14 in the world but soon to move inside the Top 10 for only the 2nd time in his career (reached #8 in January 08) Mikhail has had a up and down 2010. Reached 3 finals at the start of the year, Rotterdam (l. Soderling), Dubai (l. Djokovic) and Munich (d. Cilic) but has been on a recent run that saw him fail to progress beyond the R32 at both recent ATP Masters 1000 events.

So what of Mikhail at the US Open.

Well he has not had an easy ride here too. 5 matches played and only 1 won in straight sets (Rd 1 v Golubev) All other matches have been 4 sets with the exception of the great match in the QF v Stanislas Wawrinka. So can he hurt Rafa, can he be the 2nd man this year to reach his maiden Slam final? Looking at the match stats from his QF match he will need to improve 2 things to have a chance. Firstly the % of points won on his 1st serve will need to be higher than 68%. He will also need to up the break point conversion percentage from 47%. Rafa will get balls back into play and is giving barely anything away on his serve so break points will be minimal & must be taken to have any chance of getting a set off Rafa never mind 3.

So what of Rafael Nadal. Can he reach his first US Open final? A brief look at 2010 tells us that after a shaky start Rafael has pretty much swept all before him. 1 loss occurred between April-July (Queens Club l. Lopez) and whilst some will see the campaigns of Toronto (l. Murray) & Cincinnati (l. Baghdatis) a failure the decision to not push his serve have proved extremely rewarding.

So what of Rafa at the US Open.

First up WOW with the serve! Fastest so far is 135mph (217kph) v Lopez. Up to the 2nd service game v Verdasco Rafa had not lost his serve and after this slight blip never faced another break point for the rest of the match. Comparing the same stats as Youzhny Rafa won 84% of his 1st service points and converted 44% of break chances. Whilst the break point conversion is just lower than Mikhail I feel that his superior serving and ability to get balls into play from all over the court will put the pressure even more on Mikhail and prove successful.

All that being said what do I think the score will be?

I can’t see Rafa losing this match, I just can’t. I can maybe see Mikhail gaining a break but I see Rafa gaining more. I would not be surprised to see a tiebreak but I also expect to see a slightly one-sided set.

I cannot seem to make up my mind regarding the score line but if Mikhail wins the 1st set I predict a Rafa victory in 4 as he has the “big match” experience & an extra gear to slip into. If Rafa wins the 1st set I see nothing other than another 3 set victory with the 3rd set having 2+ breaks of the Youzhny serve.

Let’s hope we have a cracking match.

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