MADRID, May 10, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Without having to play a point, World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic advanced to the semifinal round of the ATP Masters 1000 Mutua Madrid Open on Friday. Djokovic’s opponent, No. 9 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, withdrew less than an hour before their scheduled Noon match – via Twitter – due to a bout of food poisoning.
At 11:27 a.m., Cilic posted on Twitter:
Dear fans, @mutuamadridopen organizers, @DjokerNole I am sorry to announce that I must withdraw from today’s match. I have had a terrible night dealing with a case of food poisoning. I am extremely disappointed to have my time in Madrid end in this way. Thank you for the support.
— Marin Cilic (@cilic_marin) 10. Mai 2019
The ATP website released a statement from Djokovic early Friday afternoon. “Marin is a top player and he’s a good friend of mine and he did text me saying he got some food poisoning,” said Djokovic. “So I really hope he’s going to recover for Rome. On my side, I tried to warm up and prepare for the match and then I went back on the court, trained for another hour and got a good sweat in. (I’m) happy that I’m going to be fresh for my semi-final matchup tomorrow.”
Cilic had advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals after winning three straight three-set matches. After saving four match points against Martin Klizan of Slovakia, Cilic beat Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany and Laslo Djere of Serbia. Meanwhile, Djokovic, who won Madrid titles in 2011 and 2016, advanced to his sixth semifinal at Caja Mágica and will face No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem on Saturday.
Thiem beats Federer
The Madrid finalist the past two years, Thiem came from a set down and saved two match points, at 7-8 and at 9-10, during a 24-point second-set tie-break to beat fourth seed and three-time Madrid champion Roger Federer, 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes. Thiem showed brilliant focus in gutting out the tie-break and used the momentum from it to lift him into the semifinals against Djokovic.
After saving two match points en route to his 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (3) win over Gaël Monfils of France on Thursday, which was the 1,200th of his remarkable career, Federer faced another tough opponent in Thiem from Austria, who two weeks ago won the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and on Thursday defeated Monte-Carlo champion Fabio Fognini, 6-4, 7-5.
Thiem beat Federer in their only previous meeting on clay, at Rome in May 2016. The Austrian has now beaten Federer in four of their six meetings, including at Indian Wells on a hard court earlier this year.
Delight for @ThiemDomi in Madrid! 🙌
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 10. Mai 2019
“Thiem has been playing great recently, winning Barcelona and also Indian Wells. I also saw what he could do on the slower, harder courts, not that I needed him to prove his point,” Federer said at a post-match press conference Thursday. “I don’t think anybody’s really underestimating me because I’m not coming back from an injury. I don’t have that much clay court tennis in me in the last few years, but that doesn’t make me less dangerous.”
After the match, Thiem said, “The test today was huge and tomorrow is a different game, of course. But I was playing Novak last year, and two years ago, and he was not at his best, I guess. Now he is again. He’s won the last three Grand Slams and he is at the top of the ATP Ranking again. So the challenge couldn’t be bigger. … I’ll try to keep up my good momentum which I have now and give my best again.”
Federer, who according to the ATP Tour website indicated he would decide his participation in Rome over the weekend, said of his loss to Thiem: “(It’s) frustrating, clearly. Losing with match points is the worst, so that’s how I feel. But nevertheless, if I take a step back, it’s all good.”
Defending champion and third seed Alexander Zverev of Germany lost to No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in their third career meeting – and first on clay, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. Last year, they split two matches on hard courts, with Zverev beating Tsitsipas in the Citi Open semifinals in Washington, D.C., and the Greek winning in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Tsitsipas, who came into Friday’s match tied with Daniil Medvedev of Russia for most wins on the ATP Tour with 25, now has moved ahead with his 26th victory, which lasted two hours and 10 minutes.
Lucky No. 7️⃣ for @StefTsitsipas!
The 20-year-old beats defending champion Alexander Zverev 7-5 3-6 6-2.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 10. Mai 2019
“I’m really happy and satisfied with my performance. I think I deserved the match at the end. I was playing really well, feeling really comfortable on the court. When you feel like this, you can do miracles. So I’m really enjoying the process, really enjoying my stay here until now, and I really hope to do even better in the future,” Tsitsipas said, as quoted on the ATP Tour website.
After Zverev eliminated qualifier Hubert Hurkacz of Poland to secure a berth in the quarterfinals, the German said of playing in Madrid: “It’s a place where I always have had good memories, I always played well, and it is nice to come back here and to show that I’m still one of the best players in the world and be able to play my best and always find a way.”
Nadal dominates Wawrinka
In the last quarterfinal late Friday night, second seed Rafael Nadal, a five-time Madrid champion who has reached the quarterfinals in 14 of the last 15 years in the Spanish capital city, bested unseeded Stan Wawrinka, 6-1, 6-2. It was the 21st renewal of their rivalry, which Nadal leads 18-3, including his 2013 Madrid final win. Also, it was their first meeting on clay since the Spaniard beat Wawrinka in the 2017 French Open final.
The Swiss came in having not dropped serve in his first three matches, but Nadal broke Wawrinka four times in 10 tries and won 56 percent of his return points during their 68 minute match.
“It was a very positive match. I’m very happy with the way that I played and in general terms, it was a great performance,” Nadal said during his post-match press conference. “I’m happy, it was an important moment for me and I’m really happy to be through this way.”
Nadal will face the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Tsitsipas in the second semifinal Saturday night. It will be Nadal’s 11 Madrid semifinal and a record 70th ATP Masters 1000 semifinal.
Nadal said of Tsitsipas: “He’s playing well. He won last week in Estoril and he’s already won a lot of good matches this week. He comes to that semifinal with plenty of confidence. It’s going to be a tough one, I hope to be ready for it. I’ll need to play my best. Today was a good example. I need to continue tomorrow, that’s the goal.”
• This is the fifth time that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – the so called Big Three of men’s tennis – have been in the Madrid quarterfinals together, and the first time since 2011 when Djokovic won the title. The other times were 2006-07 and 2009.
• Of the 93 players who have played Roger Federer at least five times, Thiem (4-2) is a one of only five who own a winning record against the Swiss maestro. Also, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (25-22), World No. 2 Rafael Nadal (23-15), former World No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov (4-2) and former World No. 2 Alex Corretja (3-2).
No. 1 Novak Djokovic d. No. 9 Marin Cilic, walkover
No. 5 Dominic Thiem d. No. 4 Roger Federer, 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4
No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas d. No. 3 Alexander Zverev, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2
No. 2 Rafael Nadal d. Stan Wawrinka, 6-1, 6-2