Does one win restore Roger Federer’s game? Today, Federer played his best tennis since January thumping his countryman Stan Wawrinka in very convincing fashion 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals at the Madrid Tennis Masters.
Federer’s share of struggles the last few months have been well chronicled but today the World No. 1 really took apart a pretty decent player in Wawrinka.
“I feel good, though I didn’t play much the last few weeks and months, so it’s hard to judge your game on a few service games and return games,” said Federer. “That’s why there’s no reason to get over excited. I won the French Open last year, not out of luck or because I had a good draw or anything, I had to play great tennis. That’s why I know I can do it again and I played so well in Australia that I’m going to enjoy this clay court season.”
Next up for Federer is a rematch against the hot-handed Ernests Gulbis who shocked the Swiss last month in Rome. The ever-dangerous Gulbis ripped up Feliciani Lopez 6-2, 7-6(0).
Rafael Nadal remained on track for a third successive Masters title and the No. 2 ranking with a good win over Big John Isner 7-5, 6-4. Isner, who’s played a lot of tennis recently, looked somewhat gassed but Nadal put in a good performance, and the reward is a quarterfinal clash with my man Gael Monfils tomorrow. The flashy and more often fragile, Monfils won in straights over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
“He’s an important player for tennis because he’s really charismatic,” Nadal said of Monfils. “Both for tennis and to me personally, he’s a player that I like and I’m happy to see him here again. He’s very dangerous; he serves very well, has good forehands. He’s the fastest player on tour, or close to it, and it’s very difficult to beat him. I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals, and if I win tomorrow I’ll be in the semis, which would fill out a fantastic clay season.”
Also tomorrow, not to be overlooked is a good match up between David Ferrer and the slowly improving Andy Murray. And in the last quarterfinal, Jurgen Melzer, a shock winner over local favorite Fernando Verdasco, meets Nicolas Almagro.
As for the picks. I’ll take Spain! Nadal has won five of six over Monfils and I think he beats the Frenchman in what should be an entertaining match. Monfils has arguably been one of the (my) biggest disappointments among the younger players just isn’t physically and mentally strong enough for Nadal. It’s a man v. boy match.
I also like Almagro and while I think Murray plays close in the faster Madrid conditions, Ferrer gets through.
Looking at Federer and Gulbis. Gulbis has arguably been among the Top 5 best claycourters this season, I think Federer gets him tomorrow. The courts are quicker which should help Roger hold serve easier. And that will put more pressure on Gulbis who for the first time in a long while (perhaps since that Roddick match at the US Open), he’s now expected to perform well if not win a big match against a top echelon player. While I like the kid I’m still not 100% convinced that between the ears he’s ready to take that next step.
The women are also playing their quarterfinals tomorrow in Madrid. Venus Williams meets Sam Stosur in the marquee. Jelena Jankovic plays Aravane Rezai, Li Na squares off against Shahar Peer and Nadia Petrova tests Lucie Safarova.
MANOLO SANTANA start 11:00am
 N Petrova (RUS) vs L Safarova (CZE) – WTA
 S Stosur (AUS) vs  V Williams (USA) – WTA
Not Before 15:30
 G Monfils (FRA) vs  R Nadal (ESP) – ATP
Not Before 20:00
 R Federer (SUI) vs E Gulbis (LAT) – ATP
 A Murray (GBR) vs  D Ferrer (ESP) – ATP
ARANTXA SANCHEZ VICARIO start 13:30
J Melzer (AUT) vs N Almagro (ESP) – ATP
Not Before 15:00
S Peer (ISR) vs  N Li (CHN) – WTA
Not Before 20:00
A Rezai (FRA) vs  J Jankovic (SRB) – WTA
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