It’s the first time since 2004 the top four seeds have reached the semis at this event.
In the first semifinal, it’s the Australian Open champion against the US Open champion. In the second semifinal, it’s the French Open champion against the Paris Masters champion. And the doubles semifinals should be tight, compelling contests. All four teams went 2-1 in round-robin play, and eight of this week’s 12 doubles matches went the distance.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Dominic Thiem (3)
This is a rematch from January’s Australian Open final, where Djokovic came back from two-sets-to-one down to prevail in five. While Thiem was denied winning his first Major title on that day, he would finally do so at the next Major, after Novak was defaulted in the fourth round of the US Open. They played an excellent match last year at this event, with Dominic prevailing in a third set tiebreak. That remains the Austrian’s only hard court victory over the Serbian, who has taken the other four. Overall Djokovic leads their rivalry 7-4, though Thiem has claimed four of their last six meetings. In round-robin play, Thiem was the better player, despite his unmotivated effort against Andrey Rublev in a dead rubber. Djokovic has appeared physically depleted at times this week, but Novak is great at winning matches even when he doesn’t play his best tennis. That’s evident in his 41-4 record this season. But Dominic is a vastly improved hard court player, with four titles on this surface since last year. And while Djokovic is a five-time champion of this tournament, he’s just 3-3 in his last two appearances. By contrast, Thiem is 5-3, with two of his losses coming in dead rubbers. Thiem is vying to be the first player to reach a second consecutive final at this event since Djokovic did so four years ago. But on this surface, the world No.1 must be considered a slight favorite considering he’s won an astonishing 89% of hard court matches over the past 10 seasons.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)
The last two times these men met, they created epic encounters. In last year’s US Open final, Medvedev stormed back from down two sets and a break, only succumbing after five sets and nearly five hours. And last year at this event, Nadal again prevailed, in a match decided by a third set tiebreak. Both men have played at a high level this week, with Medvedev being the only player to go undefeated. And Nadal’s only loss came against Thiem in the best straight-set match of the year. This has been nice redemption for the Russian, who went 0-3 here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut. Medvedev is now on an eight-match winning streak, going back to this title run in Bercy two weeks ago. Nadal is 2-3 in semifinals of this tournament, and hasn’t reached the championship match since 2013. I expect another taxing, extended battle between these two today. But against a man he’s yet to lose to, don’t bet against the 20-time Major champion.
Doubles Matches on Day 7:
Three-time ATP champions in 2020 Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5), who won no titles this year but reached two finals. Granollers and Zeballos controversially retired yesterday ahead of a first-set tiebreak, having already qualified to advance.
Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (8), champions last month in St. Petersburg. Melzer and Roger-Vasselin controversially withdrew from last week’s final in Sofia the day before this tournament began.
Full order of play is here.
Alexander Zverev Powers Past Erratic Nadal To Set Thiem Showdown
Alexander Zverev secured his best win of his career on a clay court by beating Rafael Nadal in Madrid.
Alexander Zverev powered past an erratic Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals in Madrid.
After a slow start Zverev produced some stunning tennis to knock out the five-time champion Nadal, who had an error-prone day at the office.
The German will now play Dominic Thiem in the last four in a rematch from the 2018 final.
It was the 20-time grand slam champion who started off the fastest as he looked to target the Zverev forehand early with uncomfortable spins and heights.
Eventually Nadal would get his rewards for an accurate tactical game-plan as a Zverev double fault handed him the break.
However that advantage was to be short-lived as the first point of the seventh game would change the momentum of the match with Nadal putting in simple unforced errors especially on the forehand side.
The German took advantage as he used his backhand to dictate points from the baseline. Furthermore, Zverev used his superior net play to his advantage by shortening the points and creating a faster tempo.
An unusual first set from Nadal’s perspective was complete as the fifth seed reeled off four games in a row to seal the opening set 6-4.
At the start of the second set, the Spaniard tried to up his level and intensity as he used some drop-shots at unexpected moments and attempted to bring the crowd into the match.
Despite this Nadal’s return game was lacking its usual ferocity as he couldn’t capitalise on Zverev’s second serves.
There was a lack of confidence in the Spaniard when implementing effective patterns of play as Zverev had a lot of success dictating play and winning the baseline and net rallies.
Another break in the fifth game ensured that Zverev’s dominance was being rewarded.
Although a double break advantage was denied, Nadal couldn’t deny victory for Zverev as the German sealed his first clay court victory over the ‘King of Clay.’
After the match Zverev admitted it was one of the biggest wins of his career, “Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said in an on-court interview.
“Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”
Lots to ponder for Nadal as an error-prone performance sees him looking to improve in Rome next week.
As for the German, he sets up a 2018 final rematch with Dominic Thiem in the last four as he secured his best victory on this surface of his career.
Dominic Them reaches semifinal in Madrid after three-set battle with Isner
Dominic Thiem is into the Madrid semi-finals after an impressive three set win over John Isner.
The Austrian booked his spot in the semifinals after coming back to beat the American in three sets.
Dominic Thiem needed one hour and 55 minutes to beat the world number 39 John Isner in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 hitting 20 winners in the win while his opponent hit 26 unforced errors.
“We all know that he is one of the best servers in history and this altitude in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve but I was a little bit surprised by his return games, I think he attacked both my first and second serves and it took me a while to get used to it and I think the match changed when I saved those three breakpoints in the second set”.
It was the American who got off to the faster start holding his opening service game and then going on the offensive earning a breakpoint the following game and taking an early 2-0 lead.
The Greensboro, North Carolina native had a chance to go up a double break but the world number four saved both breakpoints he faced and managed to hold his first service game of the match.
That break was enough for the American to serve out the first set and he was one set away from the semifinals.
The second set stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Dallas, Texas resident had four breakpoints but failed to convert and the match was starting to turn with the American looking gassed.
In the next game the Austrian had three breakpoint and converted for his first break of the match as he served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.
Isner was put under pressure early in the third set facing a breakpoint in the first game of the set but managed to save it and hold serve and it stayed on serve until 4-4.
That’s when the world number four earned two chances to break and on the second time of asking he would break and served out the match to book a date with either Alexander Zverev or Rafael Nadal.
After his match in an on court interview he gave this thoughts on a potential matchup with either Nadal or Zverev.
“It’s going to be a good one, I’ve played two big matches here against Rafa ( Nadal) and one big match against Sascha ( Zverev), and against either one of them it’s going to be an incredible challenge and it’s going to be exciting tomorrow”.
With the loss today by Isner when the new rankings come out on Monday it will be the first time in the open era and since the rankings came out that an American will not feature in the top 30 players in the world.
Past Cancellation Of Clay Events ‘Double Motivation’ For Norway’s Casper Ruud
The 22-year-old is on a roll after scoring his biggest win yet over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open.
Last year’s decision to scrap a series of clay events due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to the world of tennis but at the same time a blessing in disguise for Casper Ruud.
The world No.22 is enjoying a surge in his form on the Tour after reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters and Munich Open. Furthermore, this week at the Madrid Open Ruud achieved the biggest win of his career on Thursday after stunning Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4. Registering his first ever win over a top five player on the Tour. He is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
Ruud partly credits his success on the clay to events that happened 12 months ago when he was unable to play on his favourite surface due to the pandemic. The French Open did take place but later in the year where he reached the third round.
“It was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely forward to. I felt it was taken a bit away from not me but all the players when everything got postponed, some of the tournaments were cancelled,” Ruud said after his win over Tsitsipas.
“I think I just kept my motivation for a year and have double the motivation to be here this year luckily.’
“This (Madrid) was one of the tournaments that we didn’t get to play last year. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get.”
Growing up, the youngster trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and says his time there has shaped how he plays today. Toni Nadal, who is the former mentor of Rafael Nadal, remains ‘involved’ in his tennis. Although the 60-year-old is now switching his focus to working with Felix Auger-Aliassime. Pedro Clar, who he met at the academy, is still a member of his team.
“Pedro Clar is the one that travels more often with me. We have a very good relationship. He’s here (in Madrid) this week,” said Ruud.
“He’s been with me at some of my biggest tournaments and wins. When I won my first tournament in Buenos Aires, my first semifinal in Rome last year, Pedro was with me. I think it’s helped me a lot.’
“Also getting help from Toni. Now Toni is helping Felix more personally. But he’s always involved with my tennis at some point in my career. Also Rafa, of course, he helped me a lot the last years.”
The next test for Ruud in Madrid will be Alexander Bublik who he beat in three sets in their only previous meeting back in 2019. Should he win again, the world No.22 would be through to his third consecutive Masters semi-final on the clay after Rome (2020) and Monte Carlo.
At the age of 22, Ruud has already become the highest ranked Norwegian player in ATP Tour history. Coincidentally the record was previously held by his father Christian who now his head coach. Following his latest win, he is set to break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday.
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