The premier rivalry in the game takes centre stage once again on Saturday afternoon when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet for the 50th time in the semi finals of the Madrid Open. With Dominic Thiem or Pablo Cuevas awaiting in the final, it doesn’t seem unfair to say the winner of this match will be the champion.
Nadal continued his great run of form on Friday with a straight sets win over David Goffin, beating the ninth seeded Belgian 7-6 6-2 to make it 12 wins in a row. “I think it was a very good match and nice to watch. Goffin and I played at a really high level,” said Nadal post match. “It was a very tough match that I had to play at my highest level to be able to make the semi-finals.”
A potential thriller between Kei Nishikori and Djokovic was once more shelved due to Nishikori’s body causing him trouble once more. The Japanese star gave a walkover to Djokovic, ideal for him given the inevitable physical nature of Saturday’s match up. Djokovic didn’t look great earlier in the week but was much better on Thursday in his win over Feliciano Lopez, not getting broken in the whole match.
Djokovic had been 8 matches down in the head to head in the first 20 between he and Nadal but the Serbian has turned it completely around now as their careers went in opposite directions. Thanks to a 7 match winning streak, Djokovic now leads 26-23.
“It’s going to be a very tough match against one of the best players in tennis history. I know that to be able to have chances, I have to give 100 per cent. I have to play really well or I’m not going to have many chances.” said Nadal. While Nadal is in much better form than Djokovic and is the rightful favourite going into the match, the somewhay faster conditions probably do favour Djokovic.
After the spotlight on the race rankings in 2016, they appear to have taken on added prominence this year too. Nadal is now No.1 and will take a hefty lead into the grass season where is output is expected to dip. Djokovic is currently nowhere but the 1000 points given to the winner of this tournament would set him on his way for the rest of the season.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in three sets