Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are still on collision course for a blockbuster semi final meeting with the pair still in the tournament. It was seen as highly likely that the winner would come from that expected match, with the probability rising even higher now due to the bottom half of the draw collapsing more than expected. Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic lost in week one leaving the highest potential seeded final opponent for Nadal, Federer or another being Pablo Carreno Busta. Nadal will play Alexandr Dolgopolov on Arthur Ashe Stadium following Karolina Pliskova’s match.
Dolgopolov has been in the news for the wrong reasons recently but can make further headlines for all the right reasons should he continue his excellent run. The enigmatic Ukranian has showcased his talent level from time to time but never managed to string enough wins together to consistently make an impact at the top level. After toughing out a five set win in round one against Struff, Dolgopolov has delivered impressive wins against Tomas Berdych and Viktor Troicki – the latter for the loss of just 1 game in the opening two sets and 5 games overall. Dolgopolov is full of confidence and another win would put him back inside the top 50. “It’s unbelievable, really. It’s one of my best matches lately. I’m really happy that I’m healthy again. I’m playing five-set matches, winning, you know, not just one but quite a few.”
Nadal has been far from perfect in his opening rounds but it hasn’t really mattered a great deal for him, with a place in the second week and remaining fit the key objectives for him early on. Taro Daniel and Leonardo Mayer won sets from him before both falling in four sets. Nadal is generally not too wasteful on break points but went just 6 from 25 on them in the win over Mayer and needed 14 attempts for his first break, although the tide turned quickly after that. “When finally I did it (the break), everything changed. I was able to play more free, to start to attack better with my forehand. I changed more forehands down the line, hitting some good backhands later. I think the level of tennis after that break have been very positive.” he said.
Dolgopolov has troubled Nadal in the past, with two wins in their eight meetings. The more impressive of the two was their night session match in Indian Wells, where he won a final set tiebreak to advance to the round of 16 in 2014. “I was just playing relaxed and playing aggressive, and everything was working.” he said on what he did right in those matches. Dolgopolov is under no illusions of the threat posed by Nadal and was highly complimentary of his opponent’s game prematch. “I think people underestimate he’s all-around player, you know. He serves solid. He gives you, like, 70% first serves normally. He’s a lefty. He volleys. If you play defensive, he can come in and volley.” he said. As impressive as Nadal can be at times, you still have to assume that the match is on his racket unless Dolgopolov can produce stunning tennis for 5 sets. It would be just his second quarter final at a grand slam after the Australian Open in 2011.
Prediction – Nadal in four sets