TOKYO: Rafa Nadal vs. Andy Murray
Welcome to version 18 of what could be a great rivalry but one that has somewhat fizzled as Nadal has beaten Murray all four times they’ve played this year. Even thought the Scot plays him tough, Nadal is more consistent and authoritative than he is from the backcourt and unlike some other elite players, Murray cannot totally exploit Nadal’s backhand with his weaker forehand. Murray is 4-13 against the Spaniard entering this match and while he did look good in dispatching David Ferrer 6-2 6-3, Nadal also looked good in out muscling Mardy Fish 7-5 6-1. Murray needs this win more than defending champ Nadal does, but Rafa is looking for a confidence booster after his difficult loss to Novak Djokovic in the US Open final, so he is sure to charge hard. Murray has a much better chance here than he does at the Slams because it’s a two out of three set match and there is less pressure attached to the event.
BEIJING: Tomas Berdych vs. Marin Cilic
With Berdych talking out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 4-6 6-1 in the semis, the eight spots for the ATP World Finals are getting close to being sewn up. While there are still big events to be played in Shanghai, Basel, Stockholm, Vienna and Bercy, Berdych, Tsonga and Tokyo semifinalists Mardy Fish and David Ferrer all made progress this week. Nicolas Almagro, who is No. 9 in the race, isn’t a very good fast court player, No. 10 Robin Soldering is ill and No. 11 Giles Simon does not like super fast courts either. No. 12 Juan Martin Del Potro has an outside shot, but he will get a zero pointer in his ranking for not playing Shanghai next week and all aforementioned four will play there. DelPo will have to do major damage to grab the last spot.
Berdych has proven himself to be en excellent fast court player when he is motivated and the same goes with Cilic when he’s feeling confident, which has been rare this year. This a huge chance for the young Croat to make himself relevant again but he will have to serve and return very well to pull off the upset.
BEIJING: Andrea Petkovic vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
While it may not always be the case, the last two weeks have shown that those players on the buddle of qualifying for the year-end WTA Championships in Istanbul are super motivated. That Radwanska and Petkovic made it to the final proves how important being members of the 2011 final eight club is, as both came into the week chasing Marion Bartoli for the eight and final spot. By reaching the final, both appear to have already passed Bartoli and it looks like if Radwanska wins the title, she’ll also pass No. 7 Samantha Stosur.
Radwanska won Tokyo last week and is looking to pull off a career first by winning back-to-back Premier titles. Petkovic has never won a Premier title, but has been very solid most of the year, reaching three Slam quarters. Radwanska is the more talented of the two, having beaten Petkovic twice this summer, ironically in back to back Premier tournaments in San Diego and Toronto in August. She is not as physically strong as the German is, but has more variety and confuses her with her change of pace. Petkovic has to bring something different to the table this time.