Pick ‘Em, Madrid, May 9: Semis with Nadal vs. Berdych, Murray vs. Nishikori; final, Kvitova vs. Kuznetsova, really?



Tomas Berdych has been extremely consistent this year. Believe it out not, the Czech has not fallen earlier at any of the events, only going down at a quarterfinal in Indian Wells when he lost against Roger Federer at Indian Wells. He has reached the final of Auckland and lost to David Ferrer, he reached the final at Rotterdam and fell to Stan Wawrinka, he reached a semifinal before going down to Novak Djokovic at Dubai, he reached the semifinal at Miami and lost to Andy Murray and on clay Monte Carlo, he reached the final and was close against the Serbian, but fell again.

He may have beaten everyone outside of the top 10, but he has to be able to beat the rest the top 10, too. He upended one of he top 10s, which was at the Australian Open, when he stunned Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. He was extremely happy and even though he lost to Murray in the semis, he was changing and believed that he was finally hitting the balls the right way.

Perhaps he will never be able to win a Grand Slam, but he still has a shot and if he can upset Nadal again in Madrid, and then he will be a big threat at Roland Garros. However, Nadal is rising, he looks pretty fast now and he is feeling much better after coming back from his long injury. He says that he may not be 100 percent for another month or two, or it could me next week or even at Roland Garros, but he has shaken the rust out. He is 18-4 wins to losses against Berdych, which extremely good. He can belt his forehand down the lines and crosscourt and if he is returning well, he can knock the balls, start the rallies at 50-50, and he will be pleased that he can out-last him.

In Australia, it was Berdych who was very aggressive, who was very confident at the net and who exposed him on his floating backhand. But this is clay and although Madrid is fast and you can nail ace after ace, you have to work long rallies. The Czech will try to do that, but Nadal is a Spaniard and he knows exactly when to raise his level at a perfect time. He will win in three sets.

Until last year, Andy Murray had owned Kei Nishikori, who couldn’t figure out which way he should go and he became very erratic. Not last November, when the Japanese had put together a terrific season and when they met, he took down Murray for the first time at the ATP Finals is the Round Robin. Now, Nishikori thinks that he is right there against the big boys. He won Barcelona two weeks ago and on Friday, he wasted David Ferrer.

However, Murray won Munich, the first time he was able to grab a clay title, so now he is quite confident. He says that he is moving forward more, he is not staying way back from the baseline and he is not just lopping his forehand. Now he is almost pretending that he is playing the hard courts.

But does he look on fire like Nishikori is? He looked just fine in beating Milos Raonic on Friday but Nishikori is so fast that if he is concentrating he can catch up to anything in front of him or backwards. This contest is a pick-em, but Nishikori wants to go to the final at Madrid again and he will win in three sets.

Talk about a pick-em on Saturday, how about Petra Kvitova against Svetlana Kuznetsova after the Czech shocked Serena Williams and the Russian surprised Maria Sharapova? Neither Williams nor Sharapova played well, but the other two looked excellent and confident and totally deserved it. Yet who wins on Saturday? Kuznetsova has virtually done nothing; I mean nothing before this tournament. But suddenly, the former Roland Garros champion is sweetly touching her racket and kissing on the lines. Kvitova has never won a major clay before, but she is happy after struggling this year and the left-handed looks like she can crush the ball, anytime, anywhere. It is impossible to know who will mentally be sound when she walks on court, and while Kuznetsova is a better competitor on clay, the Czech is more ambitious these days on the most important tournaments. Take Kvitova to win in two tough sets.



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