Day 5 Preview: Nadal, Tsonga shoot for semis

Thursday November 24th, 2011

Rafael Nadal vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: With Mardy Fish eliminated from the semifinals, this final match from Group B will decide who goes through to the semis. Nadal holds a 6-2 record against the Frenchman, with Tsonga's most recent win being on the grass at Queens this year. Who knows what to expect from Rafa after the beating he took from Federer on Tuesday. If his press conferences are any indication, Nadal just doesn't seem to have that laser-like focus these days. He's tired, both mentally and physically, and admitted to not only suffering the after-effects of food poisoning but also a nagging shoulder injury that's clearly affecting his serve.

The upshot? Rafa ain't right, and coming off a month-long layoff, being pushed to three sets by Fish and suffering a demoralizing loss to Federer, it seems unfair to expect much from the Spaniard here in London. He could very well beat Tsonga, who can be wildly inconsistent from match to match and point to point. But if Tsonga brings his A-game and Nadal plays like he did against Federer, Tsonga is going to have plenty of looks from the baseline. Keep an eye on Nadal's service games. If he can't hold easily this could be one-way traffic.

Roger Federer vs. Mardy Fish: Seeing as how it's Thanksgiving, I will say this: I'm thankful for pride. It can win matches. As humble and self-deprecating as Fish can be, don't doubt his pride.  The World Tour Final rookie hasn't won a match here this week and, let's be frank, he probably won't win this match either. Federer is flying high, riding a 16-match win streak, and Fish is clearly hurting with a hamstring injury, and has had to grind through two physically grueling matches. The money's on Roger, obviously, but as we saw with Djokovic on Wednesday, anyone can turn in a bad performance on any given day. Fish will need some help from Roger if he's going to prevail, but he'll leave it all on the court, that's for sure.

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