Nadal Sets Wawrinka Madrid QF
Rafael Nadal taught Frances Tiafoe another lesson on Thursday, beating the #NextGenATP American for the second time this year 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Nadal moved into his third consecutive quarter-final on clay this year, and looks to be gaining belief with every victory at his home ATP Masters 1000 event.
The second seed has yet to win a title this year, after falling in the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona. The last time he entered Madrid without winning either of the two prior clay-court tournaments was 2015.
“I’m very happy. It’s an important result against a tough opponent. As I said yesterday, he already won against Basilashvili and Kohlschreiber, so he came to this match with good confidence and winning against two great players on clay. It was a tough match. I think I did a lot of things well tonight, so I’m happy with the performance and excited to be through,” Nadal said.
The Spaniard will face a familiar foe for a place in the semi-finals when he meets Swiss Stan Wawrinka. The 34-year-old beat Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6(3) in a slugfest between former finalists.
Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 17-3, although Wawrinka does have a clay-court win against the Spaniard, in Rome 2015.
“It’s a tough one. He’s one of the best players in the world. He likes to play in these conditions, fast, altitude, big serve, big shots. It’s in this kind of match that I need to play my best. I need to add something else, and I hope to be ready to make that happen,” Nadal said.
Wawrinka broke in the second game against Nishikori and the two were trading punishing rallies in the second. But the Swiss, growing increasingly vocal, pulled away in the tie-break. After he brought up three consecutive match points, Wawrinka shouted, “Come on!”
Before this week, Wawrinka had been 1-4 in Madrid since reaching the 2013 final. But he has yet to drop a set this week.
“Rafa, it's a challenge to play him on the clay court. I have played him many times. It's always difficult to play him,” Wawrinka said. “I'm happy with the way I'm playing so far. I'm happy to be in the quarter-finals again, gaining confidence little by little. I know I'm playing well. I know I'm physically good, so we will see.”
Tiafoe and Nadal met in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, when Nadal, en route to the final, breezed past the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier in straight sets.
During their first clay-court meeting, Tiafoe hung with Nadal early, showing off his speed by defending from corner to corner. But a break in the fourth game was all the Spaniard needed as he served out the set without facing a break point.
Tiafoe had an opportunity in the second set as Nadal served 1-2, but the Spaniard erased the break point and broke the next game with an inside-out forehand winner. He dug himself out of trouble once again while serving for the match at 5-4, 0/30.