World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych will meet for the 21st time on the professional tour on Friday afternoon in Madrid, as they battle for a spot in the semi-final round of the Masters 1000 event. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 17-3 and will be looking to extend that record further en route to his fourth title in Madrid.
Rafa Nadal had another relatively simple match in the Mutua Madrid Open, as he defeated Finish No. 1 Jarkko Nieminen in the third round of the event to set up the clash with Berdych. The Spaniard stormed through the opening set 6-1 in 30 minutes, before jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second set. It would be a slightly tighter affair in the second frame, with Nieminen managing four games before losing 6-4.
“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.”
Following up on his marathon match-up against Romania’s Copil on Wednesday, World No. 14 Grigor Dimitrov was unable to carry the momentum forth into his third round match against Czech No. 1 Tomas Berdych. The Bulgarian stormed through the opening set 6-3, but faced far more pressure form Berdych in the second frame, where he found himself serving at 2-5 down and trying to stay in the set. A few minutes later, the contest was tied at a set all.
Berdych would continue his charge early in the final set, as he broke Dimitrov’s serve and then held his own for a 2-0 lead. He would soon find two more break points and steal the 4-0 lead in the decider. It would signal the end of the match, as Berdych would need less than 15 more minutes to close out the set.
While the two competitors have clashed 20 times previously on the professional circuit, including at a Wimbledon final, Nadal has thoroughly dominated the series, winning their last 17 matches. Berdych has not won a match against the Spaniard since 2006.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets