by Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam – All systems were go yesterday at the Rotterdam tournament. With “oohs” and “aahs” echoing around the large arena, the crowd were treated to four exciting quarterfinal matches, which saw Berdych, Del Potro, Federer and Davydenko all make it through to the semi final stages.
First up was the cool as ice Tomas Berdych who beat Italian Andreas Seppi in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. After playing only three games against an injured Marcos Baghdatis (who retired due to experiencing problems with his calf muscle in the previous round), the tall Czech looked as fresh as a cucumber and ready for action.
It was all plain sailing for the second seed who comfortably took the first set 6-3 and broke again early in the second set with roaring topspin backhands that pushed Seppi back off the baseline onto his back foot.
A slight lapse in concentration by Berdych allowed Seppi back into the set after breaking during the fourth game, but at 3-3 the T-Berd regained his composure and consequentially broke again, before taking the second set 6-4.
The second match involved world No.10 Juan Martín Del Potro who floored Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-0, 6-1 in his quarterfinal appearance. Throughout the first set, the Argentine hit very few unforced errors and did not allow Troicki into the set, bagelling him 6-0.
The second set served up much of the same as Troicki only managed to steal one game and had no answer to the power play of the third seed. Del Potro looked well adjusted to the slow speed and low bounces of the court and had adapted his game with prowess accordingly. Del Potro sailed through to the semis and has booked a mouth-watering contest with secondseed Tomas Berdych on Saturday.
Despite leading the head-to-head 2-1, Del Potro played down his chances against the Czech in his press conference:
“I think he could be the favourite. He has the better ranking.”
The opening evening match drew in full capacity crowds to watch world No.3 Roger Federer take centre stage against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. There was very little between them as they traded powerful rallies and after two close sets, Federer booked his place into the semi finals with a tight 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory.
Nieminen demonstrated how comfortable he was to go toe to toe against the 16-time Grand Slam champion and did not succumb to Federer’s steely determination until the eleventh game of the match. The champion of the Apia International in Sydney found himself squandering a 40-0 game to being break point down after firing untimely unforced errors. The Finn hit a backhand long and Federer readily accepted the break before serving it out 7-5.
The second set remained equally close, as Nieminen did not appear disheartened after the disappointment of a close first set. The crowd watched in amazement after a Federer unforced error such as the expectation for the Swiss to weave his magic and win every point.
They did not have to wait long as the top seed spun his web and snatched the victory comfortably in the second set tiebreak after a flurry of perfectly executed cross court forehands proved to be unassailable for the 30 year old Finn. To the delight of the crowd, Federer rallied through to the semi finals 7-5, 7-6 (1).
“You have to give Jarkko credit too, he played aggressive on both the forehands and backhands. He took every second serve of mine on the rise.”
The final quarterfinal match of the day involved Russian Nikolay Davydenko who caused an upset by beating fifth seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.
The first set was all swings and roundabouts as it was the Frenchman who had the early break at the start, but fought back only to be broken again as Gasquet served to take the opening set 5-3. Astonishing groundstrokes from the Russian prevent the fifth seed from securing the set and surprisingly it was the unseeded Russian who took the first set 7-5.
Davydenko continued his surge during the second set and broke Gasquet a further two times before wrapping up proceedings 6-3. He will now face top seed Roger Federer in the semifinals on Saturday.
Quarterfinals day was also busy for another legend – Boris “I was quite a famous guy too” Becker. He arrived at the arena on Friday and greeted the centre court crowd after he held a jovial press conference with the media during his promotion of Mercedes Benz, a company he has been sponsored by for over 15 years. During the conference, the tennis legend joked about pop stars in tennis and discussed one of the greatest debates rattling the lockers: the schedule.
In a modern Tour that is plagued with scheduling issues Becker believes that Roger Federer has remained a positive, dominant force:
“The question about Roger is ‘is he ever going to get back to world No.1?’ I don’t think that should be the main focus. I think we are all happy that we have him around. Whether he is No.2 or No.3 in the world, that doesn’t matter. “
But what we all know what really matters to Roger at this moment – winning this tournament and fulfilling what he came to do.
Lisa-Marie Burrows is in Rotterdam covering the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media. You can follow her on Twitter @TennisNewsViews