MADRID, May 6, 2016
On a rainy quarterfinals Friday at the Mutua Madrid Open, the roofs of the Magix Box were closed for most of the time, when three players of the “Big Four” advanced to the semis of the ATP Masters 1000 event.
World number one Novak Djokovic, who only lost one set in the six previous meetings with Milos Raonic, gained another straight sets victory over the Canadian. The 28-year-old from Belgrade saved all three break points he faced and capitalized on two of his own opportunities, converting his fourth match point after one hour and 44 minutes to celebrate a 6-3, 6-4 win.
“I am very pleased with my performance but credit to him for fighting and being aggressive. It’s not easy to play against someone, serving that big but conditions helped me today for my return game,” Djokovic was happy afterwards.
Djokovic will take on Kei Nishikori, who battled past Nick Kyrgios, celebrating his third victory over the Australian youngster in as many meetings between the two. In a high-quality-encounter on Arantxa Sanchez, Nishikori gained the one and only break in the fourth game of the final set with a great backhand return right into Kyrgios’ body. After two hours and 38 minutes, the 26-year-old from Japan served the match out to clinch a 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 win.
“I think, it was a great match. Played very high level, both of us. I think he served really well. Even though I had many breakpoints in the first and second set, I couldn’t convert. If I played better those important points maybe I could finish the match in two sets,” Nishikori told.
“He served really well. It was tough in the two tiebreaks, but I tried to play maybe little more aggressive in second set. I started to return little better in the third set. I was able to read his service better. It was a really tough match, but I am very happy to win today.”
Earlier the day, 2008 and 2015 champion Andy Murray dismissed Tomas Berdych in the opening match on Manolo Santana, winning 6-3, 6-2. The 28-year-old Scot didn’t face a single break point, converting three of his own to advance after one hour and 16 minutes.
“From my side it was obviously a good match. Again, no break points against me. It was different conditions playing under the roof. Adjusted to them well. That was the most pleasing thing for me. Only played maybe three or four indoor clay matches in my life. Not easy conditions against a tough opponent and I played well,” Murray was pleased with his performance.
It was Murray’s eighth win over Berdych in the pair’s 14th tour meeting. The Brit won all of the last three encounters before Madrid.
“I’ve obviously made improvements in my game. Yeah, last few times I played against him I played good matches,” the second seed told.
“We played a bunch also when we were much younger. He’s a huge, big, strong guy. Before his power was giving me trouble, especially when I was young. We also played once at the French Open in very heavy conditions. It was very wet and I wasn’t able to get the ball going through the court and he was generating a lot more power than me. But now I’m a bit older, physically stronger, and been able to cope better.”
Murray is looking forward to a 24th tour meeting with Nadal. The Spaniard is leading 17-6 in head to head records.
“I think he’s definitely playing better for sure. I also think I’m playing better now than I was at this time last year. You have to keep improving. You have to learn in every match you play against the best players. If you don’t, it’s kind of pointless really going on the court. I need to learn from the match I played against him, and hopefully put in a good performance again tomorrow,” Murray explained. Their last encounter took place in Monte Carlo three weeks ago with Nadal winning in three sets.
“It is pretty different here to Monte-Carlo. And then from what I’ve seen, it’s supposed to rain the next few days, and playing indoors changes things a bit.”
Rafael Nadal started his match in outdoor conditions outclassing Joao Sousa with a bagel in the opening set when the Portuguese could not only win one point on his second serve. In the middle of the second set the roof was closed and Sousa seemed to find his rhythm pushing the match the distance.
Nadal had to fight hard, giving his shots as much spin as possible and eventually benefited from the Portuguese’s first and only double fault at break point in the eighth game. The world number five served out in the following, winning 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes.
“I can make a pretty simple summary. I played pretty well in the first set. Perhaps he made a few errors, but I also played with very high intensity in the first set. I was hurting him with my balls and playing long and I was in control of the point most of the time. Winning 6-0 against a player like Joao in a quarterfinal here in Madrid, it just doesn’t happen,” Nadal told.
“After that it started raining. The ball was a little bit heavier. I missed a few good opportunities and then we were 4-4. He broke me and won the second set. After that I had to suffer. I had to fight back and I managed to find a solution,” the fifth seed was pleased.
Nadal is not worried to play in similar conditions on Saturday with the roof closed.
“The worst thing of today was not playing indoors, not closing the roof. The problem was that it was raining and the balls and the clay got wet. In the third set we changed balls and the feelings changed. In the second set, apart from stopping for 20 minutes – that didn’t help either – the ball was heavy. It was raining. I wasn’t able to win the two break points that I had, and that’s all,” Nadal described the conditions on centre court and is looking forward to the semi-finals.
“I think that Andy has done great results on clay. He also played the semifinals in Monte-Carlo a couple of years ago. I think that winning a title on clay was only a matter of time for him.”
In the women’s draw, Dominika Cibulkova celebrated her 27th birthday with a semi-final victory over US-American qualifier Louisa Chirico, winning 6-1, 6-1. The world number 38 broke her opponent five times to advance in just under one hour.
“I was playing really aggressive today. I did not let her play her game so she couldn’t do much with the forehand. I was really strong, solid on the backhand. I was the first one going for the forehand and make her run. So that was the most important. My serve was working really well today and I was just on my forehand all over the court. That was the most important,” Cibulkova was happy.
Cibulkova will appear in her first WTA Premier Mandatory final against sixth seed Simona Halep. The world number seven from Romania cruised past Samantha Stosur, winning 51 points to 22 resulting in 6-2, 6-0 in only 50 minutes of play. Cibulkova leads in head to head records 3-1 over Halep.