Oh, ATP. You're so cute. You make us pretend to care in the early rounds, only to give us the juicy goods regardless.
The men's semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open will feature two revenge match-ups between the four players to have won ALL the Slams since 2005. First up at 11:00am is the newly maybe, hopefully, let's pray he's healed DelPo vs. a not-so-scintillating-this-week Rafa. Rafa's lost three straight times to Delpo, perhaps most memorably (at least to me) in Miami 2009, where I saw Rafa unravel emotionally in a way that I had never seen nor seen since. Delpo has been fighting off a cold/virus all week, but he got a walkover on Thursday over Tommy, which had to have helped.
I regret to say that I haven't had a chance to see Delpo play live all week, so I can't really comment on his form. But I feel like all I need to know is this: He came back from 1-6 down in a tiebreaker against PEHK by simply deciding to hit the shit out of the ball. It worked. So...I'm guessing he's finding his power game.
I'm going to go ahead and tip Delpo here, simply because Rafa hasn't been all that impressive this week. But hey, he competes, and 90% of the time, that's enough to notch the win.
The Battle of Vamos will be followed by the Battle for Number 2, as Fed and Nole clash for the third time this year, the winner getting the distinct honor of staring at Rafa's perfect ass. Nole had a bit of a hiccup today against Reeshard, which only means that he was a few ticks below untouchable. He fell behind in both sets and but shored up and reeled off a string of games in response. Janko said it best: He's got confidence falling out of his pockets.
Fed's had a pretty easy draw, especially after Stan rolled over today in a 2 and 4 drubbing in an hour. Want to know how much Fed is in Stan's head? Andrew Burton, who is here writing for Tennis.com, observed that Stan completely abandoned his usual ritual of taking 5 balls on his last service game. He just took the first one the ballkids tossed to him and served. That's an owned man right there.
Personally, I think you're an idiot to bet against Nole these days. Having had the opportunity to observe him quite a bit in Perth, Melbourne, and now Indian Wells, I can tell you this: The boy got swagga out the yin yang. Never underestimate that. The way he walks into the room these days, strutting around the player cafe, accomodating fan requests and soaking in the adulation, he just oozes that "it" factor. I suppose some will say that he's always had it. You'll get no argument from me. But the difference in 2011 is that he *knows* he has it.
On the difference between 2008 and 2011:
"Just inexperience, you know, a young tennis player who has made an incredible achievement winning a Grand Slam and then a couple of other major events, it maybe happened too fast for me and I was confused and didn't know what to do. But now it's different."
It is. You can see it.
Anyway, can't wait to see how this shakes out.
(Pics: AP, Reuters, Getty)