In the pre-quarterfinals at the third Masters tournament on the ATP calendar, there were some high quality matches on display. Andy Murray bounced back from set and a break down against Benoit Paire. A possible upset was very much on the cards, but as he often does, the Brit made his way out.
The next highest seed remaining, Roger Federer, was too strong for Bautista Agut as he comfortably flew past him in straight sets. He seemed absolutely untroubled and put up a great show for the spectators and definitely so for his vast legions of fans. The other member of the Big4, Nadal was made to work much harder for his win.
The King of clay fended off the very tough challenge of a highly competitive Dominic Thiem. He saved 15 out of 17 break points in the first set and was too solid on the big points. Thiem played some scintillating tennis through out the match, but came up fatally short on the all important big points. Nadal’s quarterfinal opponent, Stan Wawrinka had it easy against Simon.
The match promised to be a very brutal show-down pitting Wawrinka’s aggressive game plan against Simon’s counterpunching abilities, but Wawrinka swept past his opponent, losing just three games.
Milos Raonic was made to work in his three sets win against Damir Dzumhur, while in the French derby, Tsonga had a straight-forward victory over Lucas Pouille. He also won in straight sets. The ‘Djokovic conquerer’ Jiri Vesely was brushed aside by Monfils, with former suffering a huge fall from his suddenly acquire fame, winning just three games. The biggest upset of the day was delivered by lucky loser – Marcel Granollers caused an upset as he ushered Goffin out of the tournament, in straight, but competitive, sets.
Following are the quarterfinal matches to watch out for, on Friday:
1. Milos Raonic  vs Andy Murray
Both Raonic and Murray had a tough win in pre-quarterfinals. Murray leads their head to head 4-3. One expects Raonic to level that in today’s match, since he has been in better form than Murray this season and in the tournament.
Prediction- Raonic to win in straight sets, with either of the sets going to a tiebreak.
2.  Stan Wawrinka vs Rafael Nadal 
This, without a doubt, is the match of the day. Both these players are in electric form. Where Stan will try to do the damage with his exquisite backhand, Nadal will look to create pressure from his lethal forehand on clay. Both of these mentally strong players will not leave a single stone unturned and will give it everything it takes to win. A high quality match can be expected out of the duel. Nadal leads their head to head by 14 wins to 3, but Wawrinka has been the more dominant one in the recent past, including a victory over Nadal on clay in Rome last year.
Prediction: Possibly, the toughest match to call today, but I will pick Wawrinka to win this in three sets, since Rafa was constantly under pressure over vast stretches in his match against Thiem. If the same goes against Stan, I expect Stan to seize his opportunity and put one across the 8 time Champion
3.  Roger Federer vs  Jo Wilfried Tsonga
In the quarterfinal, Federer and Tsonga will be meeting for a 17th time, with the former leading 11-5. Roger is playing his comeback tournament, from the knee injury, and is showing no signs of that setback. Tsonga is in formidable form, himself and this has promise to be one for the ages – just as it always is when these two players lock horns.
The last time they played on clay was at the same venue in 2014, where Federer was just two points from losing but managed to turn it around. Something similar can be expected, it is highly possible that the match might go to three sets today as well. It is hard to predict the winner since both of them look in good shape. Federer hasn’t shown any signs of rust but if he faces lapses in concentration, Tsonga can take advantage of that and possibly turn the tables on the 17 slam Champion.
Prediction: Federer to win in either three sets, dropping the second or two very tight sets.
4.  Gael Monfils vs [LL] Marcel Granollers
This promises to be a very interesting match – both for the tennis skills and the show-boating that Monfils looks to show case every time he steps on the court. Monfils seems to have found a new attitude that has helped find some good form, early this year and Granollers should be feeling positive about his own form, given the wins he has amassed, thus far.
Both of them have played four times, Granollers leading 3-1. The last meeting came in Madrid, on clay, where Granollers won in three sets, but there is a good chance that Monfils will reverse the trend, since Monfils is in a better form and he has the ability to conjure winners and crazy shots out of nowhere
Prediction: Monfils to win in straight sets.
-Vishakha Khandelwal [Vishakha is a Tennis Analyst for Sportz Cosmos. You can reach her at the gmail id : sportzcosmos]