Saturday, 7 May 2016

Halep v Cibulkova - Madrid finalists

Men's quarter finals in Madrid and of the favoured four, only one was facing an unseeded player.  So it was expected that Nadal should have the easier path to a semi final berth.  After winning the first seven games, in the process capturing the opening set 6-0 against a stunned Joao Sousa, Rafa was working to script perfectly.  However the Portuguese pride snapped Sousa into action and he slowly pushed himself into second set contention, matching service holds with the fifth seed until he shocked Rafa and all of Spain by breaking serve to lead 5-4 and proceed to level the match at 0-6 6-4.
Eventually Nadal set things back to normal, breaking Sousa in the eighth game of the third set and then serving out the match, booking his spot in the semi finals.

Nadal will need to out point Andy Murray for a chance to win the title following the second seed's comprehensive dismissal of Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2.  Although Murray's first serve percentage was less than acceptable, he won all but two points for the match when the first delivery was accurate and 70 % of points relying on a second serve.  The serving dominance was the basis for locking Berdych out of the match and will provide Andy with Aplenty of confidence for the Nadal semi.

Novak Djokovic won his seventh successive encounter with Milos Raonic and at no stage did the match ever look like going in a direction other than Serbia bound.  The returning precision, even off some of the biggest serves that the Canadian could offer, was classic Djokovic and mesmerising for those in attendance, including Milos.

For quite a while it appeared that Nick Kyrgios was ready for a semi final spot as he had taken the opening set in a close tie break from sixth seed Kei Nishikori and was the one in set two looking more likely to force a break.  However each time Nick came close it was if Kei was teasing and even at 5-6 with Kyrgios on more than one occasion just a whisker away from match point, Nishikori stood firm.

The disappointment at not managing to break through and win the match at that point was huge for Kyrgios and the momentum shift was in like proportion.  Nishikori raced through the tie break for the loss of a single point and the match was even.  Even only on the scoreboard though because Nick was a beaten man.  His serve was broken straight away in the decider and 0-2 quickly turned into a double service break and suddenly the Australian was down 1-5 with Nishikori serving for the match.  He did comfortably.

A sad finish for Nick's tournament considering he held the upper hand for almost two sets, but he will learn from the experience, and he did lose to a quality opponent who never was far from the contest, even when down a set.

Djokovic v Nishikori is the other of the semis and promises a plethora of quality ground strokes and wonderful rallies.

The two women's semi finals were not much value for the spectators.

Dominika Cibulkova smashed the hopes of qualifier Louisa Chirico 6-1 6-1 in a reality check which shouldn't diminish the great tournament which the American experienced.  Reaching the semi final at this early career point is an outstanding achievement.
For Domi, right from the first round upset of Aga Radwanska, she has fought hard, knowing that the draw had opened wide for her.  Now she is in the final with a big chance of taking out her second and by far most prestigious event of the year.

Simona Halep, for three games, was in a close tussle with Sam Stosur who led 2-1 on serve.  Then Sam must have decided to leave, because Simona won the next 11 games which was sufficient for the chair umpire to call an end to what was happening.  I can't call it a match because there was only one person participating in a contest.  Stosur was just hitting tennis balls, and occasionally some would land in the court and on the other side of the net.  Whether that was intentional is difficult to judge.  Set two had 30 points on offer and Stosur won 6.

This was a disgrace, and further evidence of just how far apart the highs and lows of the Australian's tennis game are these days.
It is hard to measure how well Halep actually played, but she is still the favourite to win the title in what should be an entertaining final, with this time opposition provided.

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