Another classy performance from Roger and as I expected he slightly lifted his game from his match against Gonzalez in the previous round. There was no dip again in the second set, not enough for him to lose it anyway. At 4-1 up in the second Roger lost his way slightly but Verdasco was playing well also. Still Roger is improving with every performance and he will be confident about his chances against Andy Murray who wasn’t very convincing at all in a 7-5, 7-6(6) win over Ivan Ljubicic from Croatia. In the first set Roger was in dominant form and Verdasco just seemed a little intimidated and not as confident as we saw him in previous rounds. So Roger took advantage of that and broke serve for a second time to win the first set.
In the second set he looked to continue his dominance and got the break to go up 4-1. But it was a little to good to be true and Roger didn’t seem ready to run away with the match. So there was a bit of a lapse in concentration and Verdasco took full advantage by breaking back and at 5-5 he broke again and had a chance to serve for the set. Roger would have none of it though and broke back to send the set to a tie break. He quickly took a lead of 6-2 in the breaker. Verdasco threatened to come back again but at 6-5 Roger finally closed out the match on his serve. In the end I can’t say that Roger was playing his best tennis, even though it was a good performance. It felt more like Verdasco was somewhat intimidated and didn’t quite play his best.
Looking at the match statistics both players has more unforced errors then winners so that confirms that it wasn’t a very high quality match, but nevertheless good to watch. As I said he would have to serve better against Verdasco and that is what he did, making 60% of first serves. At the net Roger won the point 10 times out of the 12 times he came in, so once again confirmation that he can afford to approach the net more in his matches. I don’t think Roger is completely at ease against left handers and after the match he admitted he wasn’t very happy with the match. The reason he struggles against left handers is because their forehand cross court goes to his weaker backhand side. This is one of the reasons he struggles against Rafa, it is not just a mental block.
As I said before he now faces Murray against whom he lost their last three meetings. Murray sports a 5-2 head to head advantage against Roger, and is the only player aside from Rafa who can give him give Roger problems on a regular basis. So there is a lot riding on this match, Roger will want to put the Murray curse to bed while Murray will want to take advantage of the mental edge he seems to have over Roger. And importantly for both it would give them a place in the final with a shot at a very important title should they win. Murray was out with the illness that has been plaguing him since the Australian Open before the start of Indian Wells so maybe this is a good chance for Roger to get one back over Murray.
Murray didn’t look at his best against Ljubicic but I definitely won’t count him out. He loves to play against Roger while Roger really struggles with his game. So it’s crucial really for Roger to get a win here not only for a shot at the title but also to keep Murray from dominating him in the future. I haven’t actually seen a match between the two so I’m not sure what Roger will have to do to win but something that would certainly help is if Murray is not yet at his best! He has lost some fitness due to his illness and hopefully that will allow Roger to take advantage. As always serving well is important for Roger and once again I would like to see him attack the net. If he can get Murray on the defensive that would be good, Murray is at his best when he attacks.
The quarter final matches in the top half of the draw is being played today. Rafa will take on Juan-Martin Del Potro while the Djoker will play against Roddick. Rafa made another great escape against David Nalbandian in the fourth round after saving five match points! It is just incredible how he keeps pulling off these wins and one has to respect him for it. The ultimate opportunist at his very best. The way Rafa is he will probably go on to win the tournament now, but hopefully the Djoker and Roger will have something to say about that. I don’t expect Rafa to have problems with Del Potro. The other quarter final match between Andy Roddick and the Djoker is what interests me. The Djoker will want to avenge his loss at the Australian Open to Roddick.
This time the conditions should not be a problem and the Djoker will be ready. Roddick has been playing very well of late so it’s hard to pick a winner, but I have to go with Djokovic. He has been in decent form this tournament and he shouldn’t really be losing to Roddick. Djokovic is still not the same player he was a year ago though, so I hope he starts playing better that he can give Rafa a good go in the semi-finals. Last year he beat Rafa easily on route to the title so he has the potential to take him out. I’m hoping Roger can really make his move at this tournament and of course if he can beat Murray and Rafa along the way that would be the best scenario, but I wouldn’t mind of he faces the Djoker in the final. A Masters Series title is a Masters Series title.