Now, this is where it gets interesting. Somewhat. Quite frankly, if you can see the finish line (Federer v. Nadal), it seems inconsequential about the how. The reality is, though, that there are a couple of spoilers still around in the mens draw who could make things interesting, and hell, the women's side is full of spoilers. So, who's semi-tough? Let's see.
Federer v. Robredo: Well, if there's any place to tag Federer, it would be on a clay court, but the man's on a mission. Simply, Fed's too dialed in at this point to lose to a guy who is 0-7 lifetime against him.
Davydenko v. Canas: Federer'll be watching this one. Maybe even while he's playing his match. Old Man Davydenko has never done much on clay, but he's having a good tournament, beating Nalbandian in the fourth round. Also, he gave Nadal all he could handle in Rome, so he's the favorite. However, Canas, as I've mentioned, is a little giddy at being back in the game, and carries a 3-1 lifetime edge into this match. There's someone else Canas holds a 3-1 career record against. What's scary for Federer is that Canas has beaten him twice this season already ... on hard courts. Clay could go so much worse. This could be a real tussle, but I give the edge to Canas. He's hungry, dammit, and trying to make up for lost time.
Djokovic v. Andreev: I know, I know. Beating Andy Roddick on clay is no big whup. It's not. But Igor Andreev has managed to keep his head down and keep turning in solid matches, taking Marcos Baghdatis down, too. And while Djokovic is really hot right now, he's ripe for an upset if he doesn't get rid of some of those indifferent patches in his game. I'm gonna go nuts here, and pick Andreev for his big break in a major.
Moya v. Nadal: Did anyone see Nadal destroy Lleyton Hewitt? Mr. "C'mon, Rock!" Well, nary a peep Monday during his ass-whipping. What really impressed me in that match is that just about two weeks ago, Nadal was looking like a club player for a good part of his last bout with Hewitt. Nadal's showing something scary now: the ability to step it up. Being on his best surface, and having big wins is like feeding the monster. He's just getting better. I don't see this being close. Three sets, one hour and fifty-six minutes.
Henin v. S. Williams: "Let's move on, forget about the past," these two have been crowing since their match was set. "It's in the past." And you know what "it" is: their 2003 semifinal, where Henin pulled what I thought then was one of the shittiest stunts I'd ever seen in pro tennis. (As as champion does, though, she managed to outdo herself in Australia in 2006.) Anyway, I can really see both of them, especially Serena, completely blocking out their last meeting at the French during this match ... Not! Make no mistake, this will be one of the best matches of this tournament, and these two are fighters. Regardless of who wins, (Serena in 3 -- yeah, yeah, anyone can change their mind) it'd be great for womens tennis to see more battles like this on a regular basis.
Jankovic v. Vaidisova: Another toss-up, and another great boost for the women's game, if these two play to their potential. Jankovic has barely broken a sweat in dispatching the competition here, and Vaidisova has been looking strong in her return from injury. Both women had huge breakthroughs at majors in 2006, and are looking to build on that. Based on current form alone, I think Jankovic will win in three. She's a great mover, and has the ability to mix up her own game.
Ivanovic v. Kuznetsova: She's certainly no glamor girl, but Svetlana Kuznetsova is quietly working herself back up the rankings, and although she's the least of these quarterfinalists you'd see on television, she's the player in the bottom half of the draw most likely to be in the final match. Even if Ivanovic beat her a couple of weeks ago on clay. Two things can happen if you're Kuznetsova, who has made it to four finals, and lost every time: You lose confidence, or you tell yourself that you need only make a mental adjustment to succeed. Kuznetsova in three.
Chakvetadze v. Sharapova: Very quickly, might I just give Patty Schnyder some props for taking her game to Sharapova? She came up short, yes, but she showed just how far one can get by playing tennis like it's chess. She used her head, mixed up the balls, and kept Sharapova uncomfortable for that entire match. The one thing I don't get is why she insisted on going to Maria's backhand so much. She was getting much weaker stuff on the forehand side.
Anyway, the match at hand. This is a real tough one to call. I don't think the match will be of any particular quality, but Chakvetadze has a huge opportunity here. I'll bet Sharapova's shoulder's hurting like a mo-fo after having to hit all of those high topspin balls in her previous match. It's seems like Sharapova's almost waiting for the shoulder to give out. But as she made clear in her Schnyder match, she can't be discounted. Chakvetadze in three, unless the occasion freaks her out.