Rafael Nadal is going to have a tough task ahead of him if he wants to retain all the points earned at last year’s event. He must beat Marin Cilic and one of Kyle Edmund or Grigor Dimitrov but regardless of his performance for the rest of the tournament, he will still be at No.1 in the rankings after his success in the previous round.
After blitzing his first three opponents, he had much tougher against Diego Schwartzman. While winning in four, he had to save break points in the three sets he won and perhaps more shocking for him, he blew a break lead three times in the second set – which Schwartzman took in a tiebreak. It seems fair to say that there is a little more for him to work on and worry about, especially with a top offensive player like Cilic next up. “It was a tough match in general terms. I missed opportunities in the second. That’s the true. Three times break up in the second. Then you lose that many chances and you’re in trouble. But of course he played well, and he played aggressive. Yep, he did a lot of things well, and I didn’t play as aggressive as I did last couple of days.” he said on the match.
Cilic had to come from a set down against Pablo Carreno Busta in the previous round although he will have been disappointed to have found himself in that position given he held 2 set points earlier on in the first. He needed 2 more tiebreaks to close out the match from 1-1, although neither set was plain sailing for him. “It was difficult match. First, the conditions today were a little bit more humid than all the other days before. And plus from the other side of the net, Pablo was playing really good, very solid, and served really good today, I would say, and backed it up with good groundstrokes from the back. He’s got a very solid game. He keeps the ball quite low, very solid off the backhand.” the Croatian said.
For the most part, what Busta offered is what Nadal will do so although the 16 time slam champion does it far better and far more consistently. That’s been the story in their previous meetings, with Nadal leading the head to head 5-1 including once 7 years ago the Australian Open. In more recent times, Nadal won twice in straights last year – a close one in Shanghai (7-5 7-6) and a not so close one in Acapulco (6-1 6-2).
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in four sets