Last 7 Set in The Magic Box

I say last 7 as Kei Nishikori has unfortunately withdrawn from his quarter final, after beating David Ferrer in straight sets. He cited his wrist not being 100% as the reason for his withdrawal. I know the French is coming up, but he added that he expected to play Rome next week, so is it bad enough to not even take to the court for a Masters quarter final? He’s lost a lot of tennis due to injury there’s no question, so I think that’s why this is a puzzling decision for me, it’s not like he’s overplayed lately. But if he does well in Rome and Roland Garros I’ll be happy to say I’m the fool.

The benefactor is Novak Djokovic, who gave his fans an improved display against Feliciano Lopez, as well as some of the old fire to boot which was good to see. He’s definitely on the upward trend slowly but surely. Roland Garros will come to soon for him one feels, but he has a chance in the semis for sure. However a walkover just isn’t ideal for him at all, but he’s a seasoned veteran by now, he’s worn the t-shirt.

Will Nole’s next opponent be Rafael Nadal? He thoroughly dismissed Nick Kyrgios in a disappointing encounter where Nick just didn’t show up, ah it’s annoying. He’ll beat Novak twice, come to within a whisker of beating Roger and then wilt here in Madrid. He’s had a recent bereavement so I won’t be harsh with him, I’ll just say that I’m sure he’ll have been disappointed at how he played. Because he loves taking on the big boys. Rafa played extremely well however, he was ready for the real Nick Kyrgios, so full credit to him.

Three more spots in the semis…

Rafa will face David Goffin who lived up to my expectations in halting Milos Raonic’s comeback at Masters level. I can’t express plainly enough how underrated Goffin is. He’s not the biggest, or the strongest, or even the fastest. But his skill set is through the roof and he’s such a clever player. Now this season he has wins over Nole, Raonic and he was up a break on Rafa, as well as consistent results at Masters level. He’s turning into a player to be taken seriously. He nullified the weapons of Raonic with ease, which is in itself impressive.

Going up the draw, Alex Zverev continued his fine run by adding Tomas Berdych to his list of scalps, and convincingly too. Berdych has flattered to deceive on the dirt this year, whilst Zverev has rebounded from a tough loss to Nadal with a title in Munich and is now in great shape to make the semi finals in Madrid. He’ll face Pablo Cuevas, who did have too much clay court guile for the talented Benoit Paire.

The match of the day was in the top section. Dominic Thiem showed what he was made of, denying Grigor Dimitrov at the last in a 20 point tiebreaker to settle it. Thiem has lost a lot of close matches where he should’ve got the W, so to beat Murray in Barcelona and Grigor in this fashion is certainly progress. My prediction was looking to be spot on too, with Grigor seemingly in a position to take the match in straights, but Thiem burst into life in all his shot-making glory, so fair play to him. I was pleased to see Grigor playing so well, now can he back it up in Rome and Paris? Thiem for sure needs to back his play up in the quarter finals, where he’ll play Borna Coric, who made me look like a right mug in showing Andy Murray the door with ease.

The last time Novak has ever really struggled, was when he didn’t have a serve in 2009. Hilarious looking back, as Nole’s serve is one of the best on tour now.

Coric is a ‘next-gen’ player who for me, I never really rated. He seems to match up well to Andy though as it’s his second win against the Scot now, but I don’t know, whenever he has a good week he never seems to back it up the following week. I suspect that’s a physical thing, and he’s probably working with his team to beef up a bit. But then Goffin isn’t big and he brings it every week. Still, Coric has made strides this season though, winning a title and making the quarters from qualifying here, so I’m intrigued.

As for Andy, this was a bad performance and a tough loss. He was building momentum all the way from the start of the clay season, which has now been halted. He very rarely plays as poorly as he did though, he’ll be furious with himself. I’m sure it’ll motivate him to have a big week in Rome however. He certainly needs to be taking things one match at a time now. With Nole already in the semis there’s only three quarter finals to be played today:

Borna Coric vs Dominic Thiem

Pablo Cuevas vs Alex Zverev

Rafael Nadal vs David Goffin

My predictions haven’t exactly been sound this week, but I’m not going to stop now. Thiem should surely make the semis as Coric came through qualifying (as a lucky loser!). Zverev just has too much firepower for Cuevas, but Cuevas is a clever player. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him win in all honesty, and we have an interesting rematch with Nadal and Goffin… as highly as I rate Goffin, Nadal looks almost at his best right now. I can’t see anyone stopping him this week. So I’m backing Nadal vs Djokovic and Cuevas vs Thiem, although I’m half sure Zverev will make me look a right mug again!

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