World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is one match away from a fourth title win at the Mutua Madrid Open, as he dispatched Roberto Bautista Agut in comfortable fashion to secure his spot in the final. He defeated his fellow Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 to earn the victory in one hour and 43 minutes. Bautista Agut put forth a valiant effort, as he fought back from 3-0 down in the first set, but could not do much in the second set when Nadal led 4-0. While he did not defeat the clay court king, he did manage to secure his debut in Top 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“It was an important victory for me,” said Nadal. “After a great match yesterday [against Berdych], I have the confirmation today that the improvement is real. It’s very good news for me. I think for moments I played great tennis against an opponent that is playing really well and improving a lot. He’s a really dangerous opponent today. He’s had great victories this year. So it is an important win for me. To be in a final here in a difficult tournament at home after losing in the quarter-finals for two weeks in a row means a lot to me. So I’m very happy.”
- Nadal is one win away from his 27th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
- This will mark Nadal’s 90th tour-level final.
In the second men’s semi-final of the evening, David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori battled for three sets to determine the finalist who will face Nadal on Sunday. Ferrer looked the stronger of the two competitors early on but squandered a break and several chances to win the set, eventually allowing Nishikori to steal the lead in the tiebreaker. The second set would remain on serve through 11 games but Nishikori would have a match point on Ferrer’s serve, which the Spaniard saved before rallying to force a decider.
After five games on serve, Nishikori would find himself up a break at 4-2, which he would extend to 5-3 40-15 on his serve. To the delight of the crowd in Manolo Santana Stadium, the Japanese No. 1 would miss both match points to send that 10th game to deuce. The two competitors would battle back and forth to a third deuce, with Nishikori building himself to a fourth match point with a clutch drop shot. His next shot would go directly into the net, which sent the match back to deuce. Kei would give himself two match points but would squander them with even more unforced errors. A few minutes later, Nishikori would find himself with a tenth match point, which he finally managed to convert into the final point of the match to close out the set 6-3.
Nishikori trails 0-6 in the head-to-head record against the Nadal, leading to the deduction that he likely won’t manage a victory in tomorrow’s contest. While Nadal certainly deserves to be labelled a heavy favourite, Nishikori has proven that he is a developing talent on clay, as he claimed his first title on that surface several weeks back in Barcelona. It will be interesting to see if the Japanese No. 1 can crash the clay court king’s party tomorrow.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets