Nadal, Djokovic Get Into Gear In Madrid; Murray’s Slump Continues; QF Picks And Pans
by Sean Randall | May 11th, 2017, 10:38 pm
  • 67 Comments

While Andy Murray’s struggles continued today in Madrid losing meekly to lucky loser Borna Coric, his top clay rivals, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, both played some of their best tennis of this young European season.

Earlier in the day, Djokovic took the court and manhandled Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 7-5. With Lopez unable to hurt Djokovic off the ground, it was all Djokovic who improved to 9-1 against the Spaniard. And it was Djokovic’s first straight set win of the clay season and, would you believe, his first in almost two months since beating Kyle Edmund at Indian Wells.

“The level was definitely very high today I thought from both of us,” said Djokovic. “I think Feliciano played really well, especially in the second set. I wasn’t winning too many points on his service games until the last one, when I managed to return a lot of balls back in play and then win the match.

“One break was enough. 5-4, 6-5, both sets. At the end, 5-5, 0-30, we had a couple of really long points. I was in trouble, and I managed to get my way out of it with some great gets.”

So clearly one on his best matches in months, and just in time because next for Novak is a date with Kei Nishikori who cruised past David Ferrer 6-4, 6-3.

Nadal was on the evening card in what was billed as the marquee match of the day. Early on it was competitive but was Nadal got a re-break to go up 4-2 in the first and it was over. Nadal rolled to a 6-3, 6-1 win and looked awfully sharp in the process.

“I think I served very well and committed very few errors. I think I made a step forward compared to yesterday. To be able to win 6-3, 6-1 is great news,” said Nadal. “It’s not normal to win against an opponent like this because Nick is a really good opponent.

“I think my backhand was good today and my forehand was there. I think I have some margin to do it even better tomorrow and step forward. Hopefully I will make it to the next round. Tomorrow is a day I have to be ready and give my best.”

Granted, Kyrgios didn’t offer up much but Nadal was cracking the forehand and also the backhand, and, most importantly, was hitting with depth! If Rafa can play like that…

Kyrgios really needs to learn some patience on the dirt, because run-and-gun won’t work against the best. But he sounds OK with it.

“I just haven’t been in the general gist of being a tennis player. I haven’t been training. I’ve just been doing nothing really,” said Kyrgios. “I won a couple rounds and lost to Rafa. I’m relatively happy with my first week on clay. But he played well tonight and was by far the better player.”

Sandwiched in between Djokovic and Nadal, was Murray. And the tough times continued for the former Madrid champion. Behind 28 errors to just 14 winners, Murray was hammered by Coric 6-3, 6-3.

Since his Dubai title, Murray’s gone just 5-4. Murray’s gameplan is to outwork opponents with his movement, strike when ready and pop the serve. Right now, he’s not doing anything. He’s making too many errors and, overall, he just isn’t threatening. And it’s hitting home.

“I definitely think I need to be concerned about today. It’s not always the worst thing losing a match, but it’s sometimes the manner of how you lose the match that can be concerning or disappointing,” said Murray. “I was disappointed to lose my match against Thiem in Barcelona, but felt like I competed really well and did some good stuff in the match. Today, I didn’t really do any of that. That’s concerning. So I need to think about exactly why that is, what I can do about it.

“Most things weren’t working particularly well. When I started to go behind, I didn’t find any way to improve my game or to make it more difficult for him. I just let the same things keep happening, making mistakes very early in a lot of the rallies. I wasn’t building any points,” he added. “That was disappointing because you’re not always going to play your best tennis, but you can still find ways to make it difficult for your opponent. I didn’t do that at all today.”

Thus far in the four biggest events he’s played this year – Australian Open, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo and Madrid – he has just FIVE wins.

Maybe Murray is burning out a little after his run to No. 1, but, like Novak, he’s coming up on his most important time of the year with a Rome title, French final and a Wimbledon title all ahead. He’s got to cut down on the mistakes, and fast!

In what was the match of the day, Dominic Thiem saved five matchpoints to deny hard-luck kid Grigor Dimitrov 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(9). Thiem was down a break in the second and in the third, and down 6-3 in the final set breaker, but overcame the odds to advance.

“I think it was a very good match from both of us,” said Thiem. “The tiebreak in the third set was amazing. It was 4-3 for him and I played two very good points. He made two unbelievable rallies. The tie-break is always a little bit luck, but I think it was a good match for both of us. That’s the bad thing about tennis, only one guy can win.”

For Dimitrov, it’s another tough, tough loss (and those tough losses are really piling up for the Bulgarian). It’s rare he wins one those kinds of matches.

Also, David Goffin blew out Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-2, Pablo Cuevas ousted Benoit Paire in three and next for the Uruguayan is Alexander Zverev who kept his run going beating up on Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4. That’s seven straight wins for the German.

“Obviously today was a great match,” said Zverev. “But also the days before I played very well, against Marin yesterday and against Fernando in the first round. I’m happy to be in the quarterfinals here.”

So the quarterfinals are set to go tomorrow. Here are my picks and pans:

Novak Djokovic v Kei Nishikori: Djokovic leads 11-2 but based on form Nishikori has been better. Kei was also oh so close to winning this title a few years ago. But Djokovic has won 10 straight over Kei including in these semifinals last year, so I know Novak hasn’t been himself, but that’s a tough trend to go against, so I’ll take Novak in three.

David Goffin v Rafael Nadal: Rafa’s rolling again and while Goffin has the form and the firepower to match, if Nadal plays his game he wins. If he doesn’t, then David wins. That simple. Rafa in straights.

Borna Coric v Dominic Thiem: After losing in qualies to Mikhail Kukushkin, Coric hasn’t dropped a set in three wins culminating with his Murray victory today. But Thiem is clay-tough and I don’t think the Croat has enough to back up his first win over a No. 1.

Alexander Zverev v Pablo Cuevas: Cuevas is a clay court guy through and through. Zverev isn’t, though he’s on a hot streak and this week already has wins over Fernando Verdasco, Marin Cilic and today Berdych, all in straights. This one is tough, and I wonder if Zverev is getting a little tired, but I’m leaning the German in three.

So it looks like we’re headed to a Nadal-Djokovic semifinal and another Rafa title on Sunday? Rafa and Novak haven’t played in almost a year since Rome SFs!

FRIDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
MANOLO SANTANA start 12:00 pm
ATP – [6] K. Nishikori (JPN) vs [2] N. Djokovic (SRB)
Not Before 2:00 pm
WTA – [3] S. Halep (ROU) vs A. Sevastova (LAT)
Not Before 4:00 pm
ATP – [9] D. Goffin (BEL) vs [4] R. Nadal (ESP)
Not Before 8:00 pm
WTA – E. Bouchard (CAN) or [8] S. Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [14] K. Mladenovic (FRA)
Not Before 9:30 pm
ATP – [LL] B. Coric (CRO) vs [8] D. Thiem (AUT)

ARANTXA SANCHEZ VICARIO start 12:00 pm
ATP – [7] I. Dodig (CRO) / M. Granollers (ESP) vs [4] L. Kubot (POL) / M. Melo (BRA)
Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP – P. Cuevas (URU) vs A. Zverev (GER)
ATP – [3] J. Murray (GBR) / B. Soares (BRA) vs [6] N. Mahut (FRA) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
ATP – [1] H. Kontinen (FIN) / J. Peers (AUS) vs [8] F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP)
ATP – N. Kyrgios (AUS) / J. Sock (USA) vs [2] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA)


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67 Comments for Nadal, Djokovic Get Into Gear In Madrid; Murray’s Slump Continues; QF Picks And Pans

chrisford1 Says:

Djokovic is usually pretty fulsome in praise of his opponents, and seems to get along with all the Spanish players.
Novak-Roger may be the best quality and now the closest rivalry, but Rafa and he enjoy a legendary rivalry as well.
We will see if his Lopez match is a dead cat bounce, or the start of a turnaround.


AndyMira Says:

Vamos Rafa!!….”Another Rafa title on sunday?”….

Oh no no no!Don’t go there yet Sean!…There’s still a multiple mountain to climb for Rafa…especially the gigantic wall from Serbia..Novak’s form was superb yesterday…even though still in slump mood…God!Those amazing gets!!Urgh!!..speechless!!

As for Andy…that’s alright…keep on working Andy..You’ll get there!..C’mon!!


Margot Says:

AM: thought Rafa looked really good and determined against Naughty Nick. Novak played really well too. And, as for Sascha…WOOT!
Think Andy must be secretly consulting Huggy…..;)


Van Persie Says:

Am not Dimitrov’s fan, but I have to admit: the 2 most beautiful matches from this year so far: the semifinal from AO against Rafa and yestarday’s match against Thiem.


Van Persie Says:

Have to congratulate Thiem for not giving up. Am curious, if he will manage to play at a good level today after yesterday’s performance.


Margot Says:

Fantastic tie break wasn’t it VP? And really liked Thiem’s fighting spirit, he was very behind at one stage but never gave up, as you say.
Prefer Dimi’s game, just needs to jump that final hurdle now.
Dunno about today either. Coric, coming back from injury, looks as if he’s getting his form back, but yesterday’s match was no proper barometer :(


Van Persie Says:

Yep Margot, fantastic TB, it was one of the matches where I felt sorry, that one had to loose. Looks like Dimi’s style combined with Rafa’s or Thiem’s can produce such amazing matches.

About Coric yesterday, I saw only the last games. Andy is far from his best form indeed.


Wog Boy Says:

I watched the match, both maches (Nole and Andy), as much as I have to give credit to Borna for playing brave, going for his shots without fear, hitting very deep and changing directon effortlessly, Andy wasn’t really there. Some shots that he netted or shanked were below senior citizens standards and second serve, atrocious.
On the other side, Borna was playing sort of Nole’s game against Andy, at the end, he stood his ground, wasn’t intimidated with #1 and deserved congratulations.
It looks like Borna is going to beat Ana Ivanovic with the way he is changes the coaches, this is fifth or so coach and he is only 20 years old, how smart is that?


AndyMira Says:

Hey M!!..Yoohoo!!Can u see me at the bottom now?How’s the scenery up there?Beautiful?Wanna swap places with me,hah?…U ROCK M!!!Keep going will u??

Oh!Bout Rafa…i didn’t watch the match M…it happened when i was dating with another Rafa in Rafaland somewhere…but from the swooning comments that i’ve read..i think he played great…

About Andy,that’s okay M…he still adjusting to find his form atm..we all know it’s not easy to find the momentum back after we lost it…and to trust their injured anatomy after the injury,to put confidence into it etc etc…when everything clicking,he’ll win again..insyaallah..


Van Persie Says:

WB,

Thank you for the information.
Question: Was Nole really good yesterday?


Wog Boy Says:

VP,
Yes, he was good, but not as good as old Nole. He played smart, FL was playing different to Almagro, lot of slices and drop shots with good serving, Nole had a problems to read his serve. All together Nole was properly tested and did well. What I like is his return game and good percentage on second serve, as he use to have, still lot of work to be done. What I don’t like is his box, looks awkward (understatement).


Van Persie Says:

WB,

Let’s see what happens today.
Regarding his box, well, I said so many times my opinion…will stop now. the best thing for me to do, is to ignore it…


Willow Says:

Urgh Dont share much enthusiasm for a possible Rafa / Novak match up anymore, i get the impression Novak fans love it because he has the monopoly, why wouldnt they when everything favours their favorite, all i can say is thank goodness it wont be in the final ? ….


Wog Boy Says:

VP,
The biggest problem for todays Nole iz Nishikori style which is very taxing for the body with lot of rallies for the difference of FL style. I don’t see Nole in his present state, both physical and mental, being able to outplay Nishikori if it comes to that kind of match, so advantage Nishikori.


Truth Says:

These butthurt people are so anxious because Djoker won 3 matches.
They were sure that Kyrgios and numerous players were better than Djoker.
These floons have nothing to do but insult non-Fedal fans and jump on most threads with gloating about Murray. Talk about monopoly. Look at Fed and his best buddies that “disappeared from the tour”.
Don’t worry. Good buddy Fedal will dominate tennis because Djoker’s a vile, elderly bore.


Van Persie Says:

Agree with all what you said, WB. Nole’s only advantage over Kei is his H2H in the last matches, but he had this over other players(BAutista Agut, Istomin, Goffin, etc) and still lost. All depends on Kei today, I guess. But I am also open to a surprise from Nole, would be glad…


Mridul7 Says:

Nishikori withdrew from the match against Novak. So its almost definitely going to be a Djodal Semi. This is exactly what Novak might need to catch some fire in his belly.


Van Persie Says:

Yaiii! Djodal tomorrow.


Van Persie Says:

But I think, Nole needed that match. This is not great news for him.


Willow Says:

Assuming Rafa beats Goffin, which is no guarantee ….


Giles Says:

Kei is an effin wimp!!


Wog Boy Says:

First SF since Doha, thank you Nishikori;)


Van Persie Says:

Haha, WB

I had some premonition at 05;33 am. lol

“All depends on Kei today, I guess.”


Willow Says:

I Dont know if its good news or bad news to have a W/O, it is what it is, Novak will be fine either way im sure, maybe im missing something but i thought Kie looked fine against Ferrer, who must be pissed off now, IMO Nishikori needs to work on his fitness, as he doesnt seem to go through a year without one injury or another ….


Willow Says:

They are currently showing the 2009 semi final grind fest between Nadal and Djokovic ….


Giles Says:

https://twitter.com/gimmehutchence/status/862967123068559360
This is what Kei had to say. Unbelievable!! 😡😡😡😡😡😡😡


JM01 Says:

I wanted to see the Novak Kei match. Anyway, not really optimistic for tomorrow’s match, think Rafa will beat Novak comfortably. Hope it is not too lopsided and Nole will put up a good fight atleast.


Van orten Says:

Nole huge favorite vs nadal


Daniel Says:

What happened to Zeverev, 6-0 second set to Cuevas?!😱


Wog Boy Says:

Cuevas started reading Zverev serve better, on the other side Zverev dropped his focus and was playing strangely indifferent tennis. I still think he will go through, he is picking up where he left in the first set, but has to be careful, Cuevas is serving first in the third.


Wog Boy Says:

Who would’ve thought, Cuevas won, absolutely deserved.


Van Persie Says:

Zverev has to learn to be a bit more respectful. He’s still young, hopefully will learn. Have seen the last games.


Van orten Says:

Well he has to deal with the hype better . But he surely will in the end


Wog Boy Says:

VP,
You are right, on 0:5 in the second set he was in his chair laughing and gesticulating (talking) to his team, it was pretty disrespectful and I would say arogant. It looked like “this is stupid, it can’t be that Cuevas is beating me, I’ll fix him up in the third..”, well, it wasn’t to be, Cuevas wasn’t intimidated, kept his cool and played really well, congrats.


Wog Boy Says:

BTW, is it only me or Rafa gained some weight, he looks chunkier?


Wog Boy Says:

Goffin came out to play, so far nice and even match.


Van Persie Says:

I did not like the handshake. He had no eye contact with Cuevas at the net. Mean Zverev.

About Rafa. White colour makes him look chunkier, perhaps?


Wog Boy Says:

It could be that, but also me being sleep deprived, I don’t think I can see this match through C U tomorrow;)


Tennis Vagabond Says:

if a Rafa match doesn’t ignite some passion in Novak, he has miles of hurt coming.

(assuming/hoping Rafa gets through this)

Can’t believe Cuevas!! What a run he’s on.


Van Persie Says:

Even match so far, but still see Rafa win this.
Rafa could light the fire in Nole, I hope.

Good night, WB :)


gonzalowski Says:

The serve and aggressiveness saving Rafa,
and going in a rush for 2nd set


gonzalowski Says:

Oh my God, six marvellous points in a row, and BP !!!!
Skeezer, not seen in a grass/hard Fed match


gonzalowski Says:

Corretja says ‘maybe in my life I haven’t seen such a game’


Anto Says:

Finally a Nadal – Djokovic match. I donno wat will happen tomorrow. But i just hope Nadal forgets about the last 15 sets he have played against Djokovic.


Van Persie Says:

Awesome match. Rafa was just to good.


Daniel Says:

Djoko x Nadal it is. At last a blockbuster clash on clay.

Nasal eager to erase the 7-8 match losing streak and let’s see if that contest triggers something in Djoko. He wonna few points against Lopez where he was celebrating like his old self. Hope for a great match but not like that Madrid 2009.

Oh, and Nadal is new ATP race leader with this win, regardless if he loses.


Van Persie Says:

^^ I hope Djoko did not forget about those sets. He will need those memories for tomorrow.


Margot Says:

Yikes AM if Thiem wins his match I think you sweep to the top. Awesome!
I think Rafa played very well in the 2nd. Not sure not playing Kei will actually benefit Nole because if he’d won it would’ve been excellent prep for Rafa and a confidence booster.


AndyMira Says:

Hey M!…Then what are we waiting for M!Let’s do a ritual happy dancing around the fire so Thiem can win!!Yeehaa!!!

Oh God!2nd sets was crazy crazy awesome from both sides!And full full credit to Goffin for his outstanding fighting today!!


AndyMira Says:

M!…Sorry Sascha and Andy lost and ruined your Bracket…but try again in Rome okay M?


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Big match for these two men tomorrow:

Novak has to show he’s a a legit force this season.

Rafa has to show he can defeat his main rivals, which he still hasn’t done in his blistering season.


Anto Says:

the only thing i can say about tomorrow match is that a loss will hurt Rafa more than Novak at this particular stage of the season.


chrisford1 Says:

Andy, Rafa, Novak all endorse Gerard Pique’s plan. Footballer (soccer to Americans) and entrepreneur and husband to Shakira is coming to the rescue of Davis Cup tennis. Wants a 16 team knockout played over 2 weeks time, has shown the players and some organizers of tennis the high likelihood of significant viewership boost and a ton of added revenue to the nations. Similar to the WTF Barclays 8 round knockout.


Willow Says:

I Never have a good feeling when Rafa faces Novak unfortunatly ….


Giles Says:

^^^ No question you are the worst fan EVER!!!


chrisford1 Says:

Rafa – Novak!! The most played rivalry in tennis history and home of so many classical matches gets one again after almost a year. I’ll root for a Djokovic upset, but sort of hope Rafa crushes him if he does win. This is to:

1. Help keep Rafa around longer. If he can’t beat vegan diet weakened, Huggy-Bear Djokovic on home nation dirt, it’s time to call it a career or admit Novak is in his head so much that has gone past his brain and into his spine.

2. But a nasty beatdown from one of his great rivals that he just passed in their H2H in 2015 might help shake Djokovic out f the Pepe-Jelena-Marco Cult. And rededicate himself to his final years in the arena.


AndyMira Says:

That’s alright willow….It’s easy to confront this…whoever win,that means it is meant for them to win…and whoever lose,it is not meant for them to win…but whoever win,they’re very much deserve to go to the final..Let’s enjoy the game tomorrow sis!


Willow Says:

IMO There hasnt been a classic in years between these two, this rivalry has become so one sided, and lost its spark years ago, Rafa hasnt got a set of Novak since god knows when, its understandable that Novak fans would love it, given his monopoly i suppose ….


Willow Says:

And why should Rafa call it a career just because he loses to Novak, its not like he plays Novak every single match ? jeez ….


Willow Says:

Andi Mira true enough, im having the most amazing day for reasons only you know about, another FB chat ;-) ….


AndyMira Says:

Willow!….Hehehehe!Yeaahhhh!!


Willow Says:

We have a certain chemistry Andi Mira thats for sure ;-) ….


Willow Says:

Giles i certainly hope im wrong though ….


Margot Says:

Just seen a great doubles. Naughty Nick and Tubs beat the Bryans. YAY!
Never seen NN so happy on the court. Tubs is an excellent influence.
Well OK then AM, for your sake I’ll do a Thiem themed good luck rain dance :)


Colin Says:

@Giles, on the earlier thread, you make fun of Murray reading his notes and call him a schoolkid. That rather invites the Tomic response, doesn’t it?

Look at Andy’s career winnings to date, add the income from business interests and sponsorship deals, and I think his bank balance is a teeny bit bigger than yours, mate.


Willow Says:

Giles BTW thanks for that article, Nishikori was a played i always liked and respected, but ive completely gone off the guy now ….


Giles Says:

Colin. Ugh come on lighten up. Andy is one of the few players I like apart from Rafa!


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