Friday, 6 May 2016

Novak / Rafa final closer but Kyrgios dangerous

In Madrid the women's semi finalists have been determined.  Dominika Cibulkova is there, following her victory over Romania's Sorana Cirstea.  It took three sets, but so did all of the other three wins of Cibulkova this tournament, the last three with her having dropped the opening set.
The Slovakian will not want to risk that against her surprise semi final opponent Louisa Chirico.  The 130th ranked American won her way through qualifying, defeated Monica Niculescu and Ana Ivanovic in the first two rounds (ranked 31 and 17 respectively in the world) before luck fell her way with Azarenka pulling out of the event through injury.  

Still rated as the underdog against Dasha Gavrilova, herself having eliminated seeds Kvitova and Svitolina,  Chirico defied everyone to impressively score a straight sets win over the 39th ranked Australian.  The 19 year old is incredibly only one win from the final in Madrid, an event classified in importance the level immediately below the four Grand Slam tournaments.

Simona Halep managed to overcome Irina-Camelia  Begu in a battle of two more Romanians in the third of the quarter finals, despite an incomprehensible disappearance in set two.  After a commanding 6-3 opening and preceding an even more imposing 6-1 close out, the sixth seed's game fell apart in set two.  Both girls had a first serve % of 73, but while Begu was winning 91 % of points when her first serve was hitting the mark, Halep was winning a lowly 31 %.  Simona won only 11 points for the set, translating into zero games.
The ability to come back from the second set debacle so strongly speaks volumes for Halep's mental strength as much as her tennis prowess and she will be tough opposition for Sam Stosur in clearly the higher quality semi.

Sam began her quarter final relieved no doubt that Madison Keys had been upset by the fourth Romanian to make the quarter finals, 134th ranked Patricia Maria Tig.  This was the second American victim in a row for Tig, having destroyed 16th seed Sloane Stephen's chances in the second round.  Wary too was Stosur, having seen and heard the destruction of nearly all the pre tournament favourites, leaving her now as many peoples pick to win the title.

Based on her 6-3 6-4 win over Tig, Sam would have to be confident of her chances against Halep as this was a most consistent performance over the whole match.  The serve, upon which she relies, was for once reliable throughout and was never broken.  The first serve percentage was particularly impressive in the second set, and Stosur broke Tig's serve once in each set, enough to win the match.

Cibulkova is capable of a surprise as we have seen this week, but I suspect that the winner of the Madrid title will come from the Halep / Stosur semi final.

Men's action has progressed to the quarter finals, and once again the match of the day featured Nick Kyrgios.  On this occasion it wasn't a best serve contest, because the Australian also needed to find a method to combat the natural clay court skills of Pablo Cuevas.  Sure, a big serve would take him to a certain point but he needed more variety to be able to match the Argentine in the many searching rallies which would occur.  

Despite serving seven aces, Kyrgios in set one had to share both serving and returning honours with Cuevas.  The statistics were remarkably similar in several areas and based on that alone it came as no surprise that a tie break was necessary.  More significant than raw numbers was the exhibition on court which was particularly even, with both players finding it impossible to break serve.
Kyrgios finally snapped the deadlock with a 7 points to 5 win in the tie break, his third successive set in the tournament decided in such a fashion, all in his favour.

Cuevas struck back immediately, breaking the previously impeccable Kyrgios serve in the opening game of set two.  That break was held throughout an entertaining set in which Cuevas won 81 % of points on his serve and never faced a break point.  6-4 and the match was level.

Despite dropping his serve in the first game for the second set in a row, Kyrgios regrouped to level at 1-1 and from there lifted his game to a point where he dictated terms on most occasions, and in the eighth game, trailing 3-4, the rock solid Cuevas game finally cracked under the combined force of consistent backhand power and placement from Kyrgios and a booming Aussie forehand when required. 
0-40 became 30-40 with two errant Kyrgios shots, but the break came on the end of a massive down the line forehand with which no human, or group of humans, could have dealt.
A seriously calm and maturing Australian dealt with some doubtful calls without any histrionics in the middle of serving out the match 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-3 to reach a quarter final where he will need to play even better than he has to match the sixth seed Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori won his quarter final spot following a straight sets victory over Richard Gasquet.

Other quarter finalists include Novak Djokovic who demolished Bautista Agut 6-2 6-1, reminding Milos Raonic how damn good he is ahead of their upcoming match which was created thanks to the Canadian's elimination of 7th seed Tsonga in two sets.

Eighth seed Tomas Berdych is through after two extremely close sets with ninth seed David Ferrer.  His win has earned a meeting with second seed and defending champion Andy Murray who had little trouble sending Gilles Simon back to France for the cost of just six games.

Rafa Nadal has yet to face a seeded player, and he accounted for Sam Querrey in the third round.  His quarter final opponent is Joao Sousa from Portugal - you guessed it, unseeded.  He is however ranked 26 and so no mug with a racquet.  He defeated Jack Sock and will be just as much a test for Nadal as a match unfit Federer would have been had he played the tournament and made it this far.

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