Four time champion Rafael Nadal, the 2008 winner Andy Murray of Scotland, last years runner up Kei Nishikori of Japan and the most consistent player on the tour but yet to win a tournament in 2015 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic have progressed to the semi-finals at the Mutua Madrillena Open ATP 1000 on a somewhat uneventful day at the second super series played in the European clay court season.
The semi-final line-up with my picks are mentioned first alongwith their head to head records:-
Rafael Nadal (3) v. Tomas Berdych (6); Nadal leads 18-4
Andy Murray (2) v. Kei Nishikori (4); Murray leads 3-1.
The defending champion Nadal who has won atleast one tournament on European clay leading to the French Open since 2005 continued his improved form as he easily defeated the underperforming Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov winning 6-3, 6-4. He improved to 38-8 in Madrid and is 22-7 for the year and is now only one win away from his seventh final in Madrid. Standing between him is Tomas Berdych who had stopped a run of 17 consecutive losses to the Spaniard at the Australian Open in Melbourne this year and is only the second player to have registered 30 match wins in 2015. Berdych who lost the Monte Carlo final to Novak Djokovic is 30-7 for the year tied with Djokovic who has 30 wins from 32 matches in 2015. He had to stave off a match point in the second set tie-breaker against the American John Isner before prevailing 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(1) in 2 hours and 10 minutes as he reeled off 11 of the last 12 points in the match.
Andy Murray won this event on the indoor hard courts in 2008 before the it was shifted to the European clay court season at the expense of Hamburg was rock solid in his 6-4,7-5 defeat of the Canadian Milos Raonic who had announced his withdrawal from the Italian Open in Rome next week. The Dunblane native is now 28-5 which includes his maiden clay court title in Munich on Monday which was also his first title for the year as well. Murray never dropped his serve saving all five break points he faced and converted two out of the 6 break points, once in each set. He next plays the Kei Nishikori who outplayed the Spanish veteran David Ferrer 6-4,6-2 in the last match of the evening. Nishokori successfully defended his Barcelona Open title in April and also became the only player to win three consecutive titles in Memphis in February improved to 29-5 for the year.
Like the quarter-finals there is a possibility of surprise results but it would take a super human effort from Berdych who richly deserves an elusive title this year. Andy Murray’s recently new found confidence on clay would be put to a stern test by the technically sound Nishokori whose third best record in 2015 is virtually unnoticed.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]