No. 12 Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs No. 2 Rafael Nadal (ESP) -- Rafael Nadal, whose career was declared just about dead by most tennis experts as recently as this January, is one match away from winning his second grand slam title of 2010.
Nadal has only lost one set in the second week of the Wimbledon, though he did face two major scares in the early rounds. In both his second round match against Robin Haase and his third round match against Philipp Petzschner, Nadal found himself down two sets to one to an unheralded, powerful opponent. But he came on strong late in each match, and later made up for that lost time by being far more business-like in later round matches.
Nadal has played better and better with each match, an alarming reality for any Berdych backers. Though he showed potential cracks his armor early in the tournament, Nadal has not dropped a set since Roger Federer was knocked out of the tournament, a coincidence too intriguing to be unrelated.
Though Nadal looks unstoppable, Berdych comes into this match with the confidence of knowing that he has never played better. Convincingly beating the ATP No. 2 and No. 3 successively has to make him think that he's capable of just about anything on Sunday.
On paper at least, Berdych's game is far more suited to grass than Nadal's. A big serve and first strike tennis have always come naturally to Berdych, whereas Nadal can still get sucked into playing more defensively than he should on grass.
If this match was played in a vacuum, Berdych should be the one to win it. Away from the pressures of trying to become the first Czech grand slam winner in 12 years, and the first Czech to win Wimbledon since 1973, Berdych should be able to hit through Nadal and serve him off the court.
But the match is not played on paper, and a match of this significance almost always comes down to intangibles. Nadal, who has not lost at Wimbledon to anyone but Federer since 2005, always closes out tournaments beautifully. He is 7-2 in grand slam finals in his career, and has never lost to anyone but Federer in a grand slam final (2-0).
Not to mention that Berdych and Nadal don't have the best history with one another. Neither is known for generating bad blood, but Berdych's last win over Nadal in 2006 had an ugly finish.
Since incurring Nadal's wrath that day, Berdych has lost six straight matches (and fourteen straight sets) to Nadal. And Sunday should make it seven.
But I'll give him a set.
Prediction: Nadal in 4.