As expected the world number one Novak Djokovic, defending champion Andy Murray, former champion Rafael Nadal and the 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori have entered the last four of the second ATP 1000 event of the year on European clay on Friday.
The 2008 and 2015 champion Andy Murray produced his best clay court performance of the year to beat the seasoned Czech Tomas Berdych with surprising ease 6-3,6-2 in just 76 minutes. It was his fourth straight win over the eighth seeded Berdych in a match played under the roof at the Caja Majica. Murray is now 25-7 at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament where he also won in 2008 when it was played indoors. He did not face a break point in the entire match.
Murray will now face the four time champion Rafael Nadal in a repeat of last years final which the Scott won in straight sets to claim his maiden Masters series title on a clay, a week after his first ever clay court title in Munich. The 2005, 2010, 2013 and 2014 champion is looking to claim an Open Era record 50th clay-court crown and also his 29th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy.
Nadal battled past Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-0,4-6,6-3 in a match watched by footballer Christiano Ronaldo and took his streak to 13 match wins which includes the two titles he has won this year in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. It took Sousa 37 minutes to claim his first game to level at 1-1 in the second set and then he saved three break points in the sixth game when the match resumed under the roof.
Sousa then broke Nadal in the tenth game to force a decider. Games went with serve and Nadal finally broke in the eighth game before eventually serving out the match in two hours and five minutes.
The 2014 finalist, Kei Nishikori had to battle for two hours and thirty eight minutes before ending the run of the Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-7(8),7-6(1),6-3. Nishikori did not face a break point in the first two sets and failed to convert two break points each in the first two sets.
Kyrgios could not capitaise on three break point chances and lost the only game on serve in the entire match in the fourth game of the third set. Kyrgios served 18 aces and saved 7 out of the 8 break points he faced, while Nishikori served just five aces and saved all three break points he faced.
The sixth seeded Nishikori will next battle against the 2011 champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia who took his unbeaten run to seven against Canada’s Milos Raonic. The top seed won 6-3,6-4 in One hour and forty four minutes against the eleventh seeded Raonic. In the first set Raonic won 18 of the 21 points on first serve, but lost the only break point he faced.
In the second set Raonic saved eight of the nine break points against him and failed to convert on any of the three break points he faced as that was all that Djokovic needed in his quest for a record breaking 29th Masters series 1000 title. He improved to 31-2 for the year while Raonic dropped to 22-5 for 2016.
The following is the line up for the semi final with my pick mentioned first along with their 2016 and head to head record:-
Novak Djokovic (1) (31-2) v. Kei Nishikori (6) (26-7); Djokovic leads 7-2
Andy Murray (2) (16-4) v. Rafael Nadal (5) (25-6) ; Nadal leads 17-6.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]