Led By Nadal, Ferrer, Spain Reigns In Madrid; Sharapova v Li Na In Friday Quarters
by Sean Randall | May 8th, 2014, 6:45 pm

Despite all the withdrawals and upsets, the home Spanish fans should be happy this week in Madrid. Last month Barcelona didn’t go their way but things in the Spanish capital appear to be more to their liking.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez all reached the quarterfinals today, and it looks like all four Spaniards will march on to the weekend.

Nadal wasn’t at his lethal best today but well good enough to get past Jarkko Nieminen 6-1, 6-4. And he’s the heavy favorite to walk away with the title this Sunday.

“During the first hour I played better than yesterday, more dynamically and with more intensity,” said Nadal. “I knew what I was doing with every ball with no surprises. I was defending properly and knowing what was happening in every single moment. Perhaps that’s something I wasn’t able to do in recent weeks.

“The negative thing is in the match I had an opportunity to close it out with great feelings and I made a few mistakes in a row. That made the match more complicated. I gave the opportunity to Jarkko to play more aggressive and with more determination.”

Nadal, who has stunningly lost the last two times he’s played on a Friday, meets with Tomas Berdcyh in a rematch of their Miami semifinal that never happened. The big, burly Czech blasted Grigor Dimitrov in the final set to win going away 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

Rafa leads Tomas 17-3 and despite Rafa’s setbacks last month, that’s good enough for me.

“He’s a very dangerous player on every single surface,” said Nadal of Berdych. “Here even more with the altitude. The ball flies very fast and his serve is very difficult to break. My goal is to try to be aggressive. I know that to play against him I can’t leave many spaces on the court. If he strikes the ball in comfortable positions, I’m nearly dead, because he has a really high ball speed.”

In the other quarters, Ferrer, who was real sharp in a 6-4, 6-4 win over John Isner, meets the white hot Ernests Gulbis. After going MIA for a while the Latvian has re-emerged putting together three nice wins already this week. While Ferrer’s the favorite, I give Ernests a chance.

Much wasn’t thought of Bautista Agut’s win over Juan Martin Del Potro back in January, but the Spaniard is really turning into quite a player. The 26-year-old is quietly up to 45 in the rankings and at the rate he’s rising he’ll get seeded at the French. After beating Kubot today I think he continues on to the semis by taking out Santiago Giraldo who was a mild upset winner over a sluggish Andy Murray.

In the final quarter, Feliciano Lopez earned a walkover when phenom Dominic Thiem withdrew due to an illness. He’ll play Barcelona champ Kei Nishikori, an impressive victor over Milos Raonic.

“He’s a complicated player,” said Lopez of the Japanese No. 1. “He’s very fast. He returns the ball very well. He comes from a moment where he has a lot of confidence. He has won Barcelona, which is a really good test on clay. Only great players can win there on clay.”

I like Nishikori, but the altitude will help Lopez’s serve.

As for the 20-year-old Thiem, for my money I rate him the very best of the “Under 23” bunch. In a few years he won’t just be beating guys like Stan Wawrinka, he’ll be collecting titles, titles at events bigger than Madrid.

The women’s quarters are also set, and it’s better than the men’s (half remaining are French Open champs). Serena Williams will meet Petra Kvitova; Simona Halep faces Ana Ivanovic; streaking Caroline Garcia takes on Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova battles Li Na in arguably the best match of the day. All four matches – yes, even Serena – could go any way.

Tennis Channel has live coverage all day starting at 5am ET.

MANOLO SANTANA start 11:00 am
WTA – [1] S Williams (USA) vs [5] P Kvitova (CZE)
WTA – [8] M Sharapova (RUS) vs [2] N Li (CHN)
Not Before 3:30 pm
ATP – [1] R Nadal (ESP) vs [6] T Berdych (CZE)
ATP – R Bautista Agut (ESP) vs [Q] S Giraldo (COL)
Not Before 8:00 pm
ATP – [5] D Ferrer (ESP) vs E Gulbis (LAT)
ATP – [10] K Nishikori (JPN) vs F Lopez (ESP)

ARANTXA SANCHEZ VICARIO not before 3:00 pm
WTA – [4] S Halep (ROU) vs [11] A Ivanovic (SRB)
WTA – [Q] C Garcia (FRA) vs [3] A Radwanska (POL)
ATP – [4] D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs [8] R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK)

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64 Comments for Led By Nadal, Ferrer, Spain Reigns In Madrid; Sharapova v Li Na In Friday Quarters

Klaas Says:

As predicted Nishikori in 2, although how did Raonic loose the first set??

Berdych could deliver a surprise if he can play as well as in set 2 and 3 today.

The whole mens tournament feels kind of strange without any of the big names except Nadal. If he wins, he really has not proven a thing, and if he does not, his confidence will take another hit. Not a good scenario for him.

Heynen Says:

Is Murray now just completely out of the conversation? His injury was a long time ago – he’s been very quiet for a while now.

contador Says:

Well, just when I was all excited about this tournament with Grigor, Andy, and Thiem doing so well, poof…..they are gone.

What is left appears quite routine; unless Kei can beat F-Lo; Gulbis, I guess beating Ferrer would inject some life in. Otherwise it is a Nadal – Ferrer final, which is dull, unless you are a diehard Nadal Fan.

On a more positive note, as for Friday matches – the WTA matches on Sanchez Vicario would be a good ticket and the Bautista-Agut vs Giraldo match should be scrappy fun.

contador Says:

@ Heynan

No, Murray is not done. He is on track to be in good form for grass and Wimbledon. He is not at his best on clay; although, that is my opinion.
Agree with Sean’s opinion on the Dominator, Dominic Thiem. Also agree with the picks: the four remaining Spaniards get through to semi’s.

Kei has been brilliant but feels like it’s time he takes a rest. F-Lo over Kei.

Bad Knee Rules Says:

Until the fifth game of the second set, Grisha was all over Berdych. He was taking the ball early, painting lines, mixing it up, just being a pleasure to watch. Then the old story came back – lack of stamina.

contador Says:

That is not good. @BKR

Stamina problem, that is. Grigor had a tough match vs Marius Copil. Still not much consolation for a Grisha fan. He is a pleasure to watch.

Just watched Gulbis – Cilic on youtube. Gulbis’ directing traffic with that forehand. Whatever works for him, I guess.

Steve 27 Says:

Dimitrov? Overated!

contador Says:

@ Steve 27

Agree Grigor used to be embarrassingly over-hyped in the media. But since he improved his stamina – at least especially since the beginning of this year, he is living up pretty well to the hype.

He needs a couple big titles to really meet the hype, I’d admit. The kid’s style has grown on me. But so has this one:


Steve 27 Says:

Dimitrov is good tehcnically but phshicaly and mentally he is not good enough to deserve all the hype. He is young enough to get better but with 23 years old he has not won anything important. Compare with Wawrinka in 2008 and I not see much difference and I dont know why people think Dimitrov can win several GS with that mindset and a poor physical shape.

Margot Says:

I don’t think Gorgeous Grigor is over-hyped. I can see improvements even in this short time with Rasheed.The first set against Berd just showed how brilliant he can be. His first serve went off in the second which didn’t help. Fitness can be improved and I think he showed huge toughness against Copil who was playing way beyond his pay scale.
Such a shame Dom got sick, but Beefy must be sicker.
Come on Kei!

roy Says:

let’s compare dimitrov to big 4 and two other contenders at 22yrs. slightly different eras, not completely accurate, but not too bad.

FEDERER 2004, 22yrs

62% 1st Serve
78% 1st Serve Points Won
58% 2nd Serve Points Won

>> 92% Service Games Won

>> 30% Return Games Won

BERDYCH, 22yrs

77% 1st Serve Points Won
53% 2nd Serve Points Won

>> 84% Service Games Won

>> 24% Return Games Won

MURRAY, 22yrs

54%1st Serve
77%1st Serve Points Won
53%2nd Serve Points Won

>> 84% Service Games Won

>> 30% Return Games Won

DJOKER, 22yrs

64% 1st Serve
71% 1st Serve Points Won
52% 2nd Serve Points Won

>> 82% Service Games Won

>> 32% Return Games Won

DELPO, 22yrs

62% 1st Serve
76%1st Serve Points Won
55%2nd Serve Points Won

>> 88% Service Games Won

>> 26% Return Games Won

NADAL, 22yrs

68% 1st Serve
71% 1st Serve Points Won
57% 2nd Serve Points Won

>> 84% Service Games Won

>> 34% Return Games Won

DIMITROV 2013, 22yrs

62% 1st Serve
76% 1st Serve Points Won
51% 2nd Serve Points Won

>> 83% Service Games Won

>> 22% Return Games Won


conclusion: dimitrov has a very good first serve, but only wins around the same % service games as nadal/djoker back when their serves were garbage.
dimitrov’s second serve and/or court game is lacking.

dimitrov is a poor returner. the big 4 all had FAR superior returns at 22.
notice berdych and delpo, both bigger men with slower reactions, were also both better returners at 22 and berdych is significantly better now.

prediction: dimitrov doesn’t have the return game to match it with the top 5 or so in 5 set matches.
it is unlikely his return will reach high 20% range.

probably the idiotic desire to imitate federer right down to federer’s one weakness, the single-hander, has led to dimitrov hampering his own potential.
federer has somehow still managed very good return stats, probably because of his chip backhand return minimizing the damage.

dimitrov, for whatever reason, is a poor returner.
and his serve isn’t dominant enough to make up for that.

Margot Says:

I take your point, but more relevant would be to put up his stats against the current “young guns.”
And the rate at which players develop is different anyway. I think Kei, for example, has improved enormously these last two years, and has noticeably “beefed” up. And who’d a thought Stan would get a slam at 28?
And, just perhaps, its been a whole lot harder to develop under the shadow of these players?

Giles Says:

Vamos Rafa!

nick Says:

Murray is a spent force. Time to retire. Do us a favour and take the doped rat with you when you leave and remember to close the door

James Says:

I don’t think Kei will lose to F Lopez. Winning this match will get him a place in the top 10.
Kei’s speed and mental strength had always impressed me. Even when he was getting routined by Nadal and other top players. I’m glad to see him make the most of his foot speed especially on clay. And he’s so well balanced off both wings. His serve has also improved a lot. Having Chang by his side has given him more confidence and the belief that he too can go on to win a Grand Slam title like his coach. Keep working hard, Kei. You can do it.

I am also impressed with Thiem. The main thing I look for in young players is their mental strength, how they perform under pressure. I believe they’re all talented and very good in what they do. It’s the mental strength and athleticism that seperates the best from the rest. I saw it in Nadal when I first saw him. Seen it in Kei. I see it in Thiem too.

Honfleuraise Says:

I know you hang out here Margot, so will pop in from time to time to say Hi.

Andy’s performances have been strange this week. He is patently and understandably distressed by the death of Bally but I never thought I would live to see the day when he smiled at his mistakes.

the DA Says:

“Is Murray now just completely out of the conversation?”

No. Ask again after Wimbledon and a few HC tournaments.

Michael Says:

Andy is going through a horrible time. He has still not settled after that back injury and also had a free fall in rankings. I am not sure if his fortunes will brighten during the grass court season. But he has the most to defend at Wimbledon and if he doesn’t then he might even go out of Top 10 and that would turn nasty.

Hippy Chic Says:

Michael Andys best surface was never clay anyway,but i admit he seems a bit lost on court,im wondering if its his need for another coach and also the death of Bally?but grass is just around the corner which he usually thrives on,tennis IMO really needs him at the top of the game,he has the weapons to really push and outplay Novak when hes at his best like Wimbledon last year,im still hoping his best form is just around the corner?

Colin Says:

Good grief, the prediction enthusiasts are taking a beating these days … now Serena’s dropped out.

metan Says:

James, nice one re : kei. I thought you never pay attention about him. So far so good man. Come on prince Kei. You can make it.

contador Says:

Andy smiling at his mistakes is tough to interpret. He has shown irony before but not as much as outright frustration with himself. Agree with @ Honflueraise that there may be a connection between the distress of Bally’s death and the ironic way he is responding to his mistakes at the moment, in tennis.

contador Says:

@ Colin. As a very amateur prediction enthusiast, I accept being left with a good dose of egg on my face on a regular basis.

calmdownplease Says:

“Murray is a spent force. Time to retire. Do us a favour and take the doped rat with you when you leave and remember to close the door”

Nick = Mirka suffering post partum depression.

Giles Says:

Vamos Champ!
Onto the semis!

RZ Says:

I’d like to see a Nadal-Nishikori final. Even though Nadal won in straights the last time they played (Aussie Open), I’d be curious to see how Nishikori might (or might not) challenge him on clay.

contador Says:

^ Dolgo got his moment right vs Rafa and so did Stanislaw Waw.

Nishikori or even Gulbis would make a more appealing final match than any player of the Armada. The Spanish definitely have the upper hand on clay, so far, in terms of number of accomplished clay court players.

Bautista-Agut vs Giraldo is on right now, btw… better go watch.

contador Says:

Meh, poor Giraldo does not know how to get it going today. No sign of fun scrapping…

Bautista-Agut with the first set and up a break in the 2nd set.

contador Says:

signs of a pulse from Santiago… maybe it is too late though.

Vamos, Santi

contador Says:

Bravo, Bautista- Agut…

Giraldo had no fight today.

Margot Says:

*Waves and shouts* Brilliant nom de plume btw :) Dunno what the smiling is about, but it’s so out of character it’s a wee bit alarming. I’ve only ever seen Andy smile on court about twice, and on both occasions he was playing mind blowingly good tennis. Perhaps it’s to mask his real feelings?
Anyone else think Giraldo is not above trying to pull a fast one? Really glad RBA won anyway. At the ripe old age of 26, he’s having a grand season. Really nice neat player.
I honestly don’t know who the “dope rat” is. As it’s in the same post as referencing Andy, do hope it doesn’t refer to darling Judy!
At anyrate, Sean where are you? Doping allegations, including oblique ones, are not allowed.

contador Says:

A couple or a few times, Margot, is it that Andy responded with a form of irony to a hostile crowd? Love it when he does that; much better than frustration.

The wry smile can be good a healthy response, is what I am saying.

contador Says:

Sky sports is replaying Nadal-Berdych match.

Margot Says:

Yeah, but never to that extent. A quiet smirk walking on after Gasquet at RG. We discussed that b4. But that was it! Not this permanent grimace :(
Just gonna watch your Gulbis. Don’t like him myself but he’s playing with more purpose these days. Sands of time and all that perhaps?

contador Says:

Why does Gulbis have to cover that angelic face with a beard? :/

I’ll watch Andy closer next tournament. It must be a lot worse than I am guessing, the expression, that is. Permanent grimace is different than wry smile, to me.

Daniel Says:

Nadal got of the Friday clay curse. Cant’ see him losing to Augt. Maybe a Gulbis or Nishi final will be more competitive than Ferrer. Ferrer can still get a win over Nadal here and there, but a final?!
Maybe Nadal will feel some pressure in the final due to his latest results, will see. So far he is having a ‘bad day’ and this tourney he is playing to his old self.

contador Says:

Gulbis is being fairly smart, today.

He played and mostly timed that serve and drop shot to perfection. Daveed was about to break.

Not sure if Ernests figure out how to break Ferrer.

contador Says:

My memory is short for Gulbis’ bad moments. And I forgive him for beating my man… Dog.

contador Says:

Cheers, Daniel ….

Are you watching Gulbis?

contador Says:

Well this is the best tennis match all day. Headed for a tie-break but my feeling is in agreement with the commentator, whoever wins the first set, wins the match.

Gulbis has had to use everything he has got to hold serve. Ferrer has not been perfect on serve but Gulbis can’t break him. I’d say it is still advantage Ferrer for this match.

Ferrer has an under-rated serve; We are in an important tie-break, I get the feeling.

Daniel Says:

I wish contador.

Work counting hours to finish Friday:-) Maybe I get some of the Nishi match. Just following scores all day. I am hoping for a Nishi x Gulbis ball bashing fast paced semis tomorrow. Those two can punish a ball when they want to.

contador Says:

Gulbis passively hitting the ball short but Ferrer standing to far back to take the opportunity. Gulbis misses though and loses the point. Typical.

Gulbis is nervous. The most aggressive will win the match. Ferrer ahead 5-3 ; set point Ferrer

contador Says:

Well, Daniel.

Gulbis had is chances that first set is my feeling but could not take the chances. Ernie smiles but the smile is a nervous smile. He has to play aggressive tennis or he loses.

Thinking this is Ferrer’s and I need to leave and come back to cheer Kei Nishikori.

Daniel Says:

Hope now Nishi can break the spanih domain in Madrid.

contador Says:

Me too, Daniel. Nishi vs Ferrer would be good; not F-lo vs Ferrer…ugh – we already have Nadal vs Bautista-Agut. How much can we take of this? ; )

contador Says:

Ooow, Daniel. break chance for Ernie…..

And he gets the break! hey, I am here to see if G-bus can hold serve….sheesh…..i am nervous for G-bus. Been a long time since having so much hope in Gulbis.

contador Says:

Stunningly well timed drop shot from Ferrer…

Break back chances for Ferrer

contador Says:

Ferrer able to break back

contador Says:

Gulbis is too passive when nervous during a rally. He can hit a stunning serve to save his life fairly consistently if he is ahead in the score. But he even served poorly trying to hold.

Come on Gulbis…..

contador Says:

Daniel, you got me wishing for a Gulbis-Nishikori match and I can’t stop watching this now.

contador Says:

hahahaha…..Ferrer is still bouncing around like a super ball. It is over now….

Ferrer has out- lasted Gulbis – no surprises : (

Ferrer serving for match

contador Says:

Gulbis indeed was robbed a point….

Match point Ferrer

contador Says:

Thrilling right to the end, Daniel


contador Says:

Bah….match point again Ferrer….

Ferrer wins.

Hippy Chic Says:

When a player loses a point through a dodgy descision,im always glad when they win the next point,as it seems to even things up,and therefore justice was done,otherwise theres a question mark,would he could he should he?

Margot Says:

Unfortunately for Gulbis he met a brick wall tonight. Now how the heck does Ferrer do it? He plays a very attritional game yet, keeps going and going and going!
Gr8 first set but G got more and more wild in 2nd. Indeedy done out of a very crucial point. Need Hawkeye on clay too, for quarters on I’d say, certainly for 1,000s.

Daniel Says:

Now onto Nishi. Let’s see if he can keep the good form. Nothing better for a tennis player to keep on winning.
Thanks for the updates contador.

contador Says:

My pleasure @ Daniel , but I have to get to a late afternoon appointment, : (

Someone else less excitable can take over? – that would be great

Hippy Chic Says:

Damn wanted a repeat clash between Kei and Ernest but not to be,would love to see a Rafa/Kei final,but like Rafa i wont be taking that for granted?

Hippy Chic Says:

Okiegal i missed Rafa today,even though i came home from work with a miagraine,how did he play the commies say he was back to his breath taking best?

Okiegal Says:


The commies were right…….He was vintage Rafa…..painting the lines beautifully……looking like his old self. Hopefully we will see more of the same tomorrow!!

Hippy Chic Says:

Okiegal thats good news,especially with Rome coming up,and especially the FO….

Okiegal Says:


I have 30 minutes to go before the semis start. I hope Rafa keeps up the good play. If he wins, great, if he loses, his result was better than the last two tournaments…….


James Says:

@metan, I like Kei too. He’s my second favorite player to watch after Rafa :-)

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