09/08/2012 08:56 am ET

U.S. Open Semifinals Previews, Predictions: Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic Headline Final Four

By Richard Pagliaro,

Andy Murray (3) vs. Tomas Berdych (6)
Head-to-Head: Berdych leads 4-2
What Murray needs to do to win:
Use his variety, particularly the slice and the drop shot, to drag the 6-foot-5 Berdych out of his baseline comfort zone. While Murray is a much better defender, he cannot try to bob and weave his way through this match: Berdych hits too hard and if Murray retreats into a defensive shell he could get blown away. Murray needs to use the low ball to make the bigger man bend and at times hit behind him.
What Berdych needs to do to win:
Serve with authority (Berdych has hit 71 aces against only nine double faults in five tournament wins) and rip flat shots down the lines early so that Murray cannot sit on the cross-court pattern. Berdych will want to aggressively attack mid-court shots, go after Murray’s second serve and make the Scot run and defend in rallies.
The Pick: Murray in five sets
The quicker, more agile athlete, Murray can do more with the ball and create sharper angles. Though both men have winning records in five-set matches (Berdych is 14-7 and Murray is 12-6 in five setters), Murray should have the edge as the match progresses. Berdych has played only two major semifinals in his career whereas Murray is contesting his seventh semifinal in his last eight majors.
Novak Djokovic (2) vs. David Ferrer (4)
Head-to-Head: Djokovic leads 8-5
What Djokovic needs to do to win:
Maintain the intense edge he’s exhibited in recent rounds and attack Ferrer’s forehand with heavy, deep topspin early to open a game-changing pattern: Djokovic’s backhand crosscourt to Ferrer’s weaker backhand wing. Djokovic played that pattern brilliantly to open the backhand down the line in his quarterfinal win over Juan Martin del Potro; look for him to impose that pattern on Ferrer.
What Ferrer needs to do to win:
Ferrer cannot out-hit Djokovic, so he must try to take the ball early and vary the height and depth of his signature shot, the inside-out forehand. Djokovic punished Ferrer’s second serve in straight-sets wins in Melbourne and Miami earlier this year, so Ferrer will need to serve exceptionally well to have a shot of upsetting the game’s best returner.
The Pick: Djokovic in four sets
Ferrer is coming off a grueling five-set quarterfinal and is facing a tireless, ruthless opponent who has not surrendered a set in this tournament. Djokovic’s speed, expansive reach, elastic body control and sheer belief that no ball is beyond his reach were all on display in his quarterfinal deconstruction of del Potro, and Djokovic will shrink the court even more against Ferrer.