Just going back to check the written word and...
Marat Safin, Russia, vs. James Blake, United States
Safin is starting to show the form that won him a Grand Slam title in 2000. Probably what is most surprising is that he's been able to keep his emotions in check. In his last two sets against Todd Martin, he played as composed a two-set stretch as I've ever seen from him.
Safin is going to be the favorite in this match, but James Blake is having a very good tournament. Thus far, however, Blake hasn't played someone with the quality of power that Safin has. For Blake to win this match, he will need to have a first-serve percentage around 65 percent. Also, he needs to do a better job returning first and second serves than he usually does against big servers.
If Blake can't break serve, he won't win this match because at times his serve has deserted him, whereas Safin is equally lethal while serving or returning. It's time for Blake to make a statement. Winning this match would be making a huge statement to everyone in the locker room saying, "I'm someone to be reckoned with in 2004."
Pick: Blake in five sets
Andy Roddick (1), United States, vs. Marat Safin, Russia
Just by taking the court with Andy Roddick, Marat Safin is taking a huge step toward telling the world that he's back and he's a player to be reckoned with again. He says he's rededicated his life to tennis. He's shown that he still can compete at a top-10 level.
The stats to watch in this match are first-serve percentage and second-serve returning points won. Since you can expect each guy is going to serve well, it's going to come down to the player who can get the most returns back in the court and who converts the most break points. Both rely on huge serves to get free points, so the player who can make the other play more balls on their own serve will be the player who will get that rare break of serve.
Brad Gilbert should have Roddick so ready to play and so pumped up that he might play his best match of the tournament so far -- and that's saying something considering he hasn't lost a set yet.
Way to go, Mal!
Honestly, I'm a little disappointed in his lack of real analysis here. I don't believe that Mal would have been so benign when he first took this gig fresh off of the tour.