Rafael Nadal, a three time winner of the first of the nine Masters Series 1000 event by BNP Paribas, saved a match point against the 18 year old German sensation Alexander Zverev in the match of the tournament to advance to the quarterfinal to be played on Friday. Nadal blew a set point in the first set tie-break but then bageled the German upstart in the second set in just 25 minutes winning 25 of the 34 points to force a decider.
Zverev had a match point while serving at 5-3, 40-30 in the third set but netted a forehand volley which he later described as the easiest shot of the match. Nadal then showed his experience of 14 grand slam wins as he took the next three games to seal the two hour thirty four minute match 6-7(8),6-0,7-5.
Later in the evening, Novak Djokovic avenged his only loss of 2016 to the left handed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez with a resounding 6-3, 6-3 win in just sixty five minutes and showed ominous signs of the form that he has displayed over the last two years. Lopez had won the quarter final encounter at the Dubai Dutyfree Championship in February as the top ranked Serb conceded the match as he was suffering from an eye infection after dropping the first set 3-6.
Djokovic improves to 19-1 for the year and now takes on Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga who had a surprisingly easy 6-3, 6-2 win over Austrian Dominic Thiem who boasts a tour leading 22 wins in 2016 that includes wins in Buenos Aires and Acapulco. That quarter final will be played on Friday when Nadal too will be in action against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
The fifth ranked Nishikori beat the last remaining American in the draw; the ninth seeded John Isner as he overcame the loss of the first set by clinching the remaining two in tie-breaks in a match lasting 2 hours and 10 minutes. Isner fired 23 aces in the match and never faced a break point in the whole match.
The American took the first set 6-1 breaking serve twice, but Nishikori proved the tougher of the two as he raised his game in both the tie-breaks to clinch a 1-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(5). Isner won 99 points while Nishikori won only 91 points in the entire match.
In the bottom half of the draw there were upsets galore as Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and the Frenchman Richard Gasquet were bundled out by David Goffin, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic respectively. The third seeded Wawrinka, winner in Dubai and Chennai this year, lost to the 15th seeded Belgian David Goffin 3-6, 7-5, 6-7(5) in two hours and twenty six minutes.
Goffin next faces the 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia who defeated the eighth seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. The Croat had 15 aces and improved his 2016 record to 12-7 which includes a loss in the final of the Marseille Open to the Australian Nick Kyrgios.
Canada’s Milos Raonic, whose only loss in 2016 was a heart breaking semi final loss in Melbourne to Andy Murray over five sets, upset the sixth seeded Berdych who missed an easy overhead on match point in the second set tie-break. Raonic a winner in Brisbane (d. Federer) now is 12-1 in 2016 and looks like the favourite to reach Sunday’s final, from the bottom half of the draw, which is now wide open with Cilic seeded 10th as the highest ranked player.
Raonic won his match against Berdych, 6-4,7-6(7). He never dropped serve and saved two break points in the match. He takes on the mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils in the last eight on Thursday as the 13th seeded Monfils took out the the Argentine left hander Federico Delbonis – conqueror of Andy Murray in the round of 32. Monfils won 6-3,6-4 and improved to a 12-3 record for the year which includes a loss in the final of the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam (loss to Martin Klizan).
The following is the line up for the round of eight with my pick mentioned first alingwith their head to head record:-
Novak Djokovic (1) (19-1) v. Jo Wilfred Tsonga (7) (10-4) ; Djokovic leads 14-6
Kei Nishikori (5) (14-4) v. Rafael Nadal (11-4); Nadal leads 5-1
Marin Cilic (10) (12-7) v. David Goffin (15) (11-4); Goffin leads 2-1
Milos Raonic (12) (12-1) v. Gael Monfils (13) (12-3); Monfils leads 1-0.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]