2015 Madrid Open Friday Recap
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 Mutua Madrid Open careened towards a conclusion on Friday as eight men, and four women took centre stage on Manolo Santana.
Maria Sharapova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
The day began with the first women’s semi-final, and it was an all-Russian affair as defending champion Maria Sharapova faced surprise semi-finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova might have been a surprise inclusion in the semi-finals, but she was not to be under-estimated. The 29 year old has previously won two grand slam titles, including the French Open back in 2009.
Kuznetsova can play on clay, and she certainly showed that today. She came out of the blocks quickly, breaking at 2-1 and immediately putting Sharapova under pressure. The break advantage was then doubled at 4-2. The unseeded player then served out the set successfully, and in turn gave Sharapova no choice but to play three sets again if she wanted to win.
Kuznetsova had no intention of going the distance though. The world number 29 saved break point at 2-1, before finally sealing a break advantage herself at 2-2. The 2009 Roland Garros champion continued to apply the pressure on Sharapova’s serve at 4-2, but the world number three saved all three break points. From that point it was just about closing it out for Kuznetsova, and she did it without any issue what so ever. The upset was complete, and Svetlana Kuznetsova became the first player to advance to the finals 6-2 6-4.
Serena Williams vs Petra Kvitova
The upsets just kept coming on Manolo Santana as Serena Williams was dumped out by Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-3.
The world number one couldn’t find her serve, and coupled with Kvitova’s brilliant play from the baseline we had another one sided semi-final. Kvitova had never beaten Serena in five attempts before today, but during the match you could sense that it was finally going to be Petra’s time against the world number one.
The Czech’s game was on point from the start, and a rattled Williams couldn’t find any rhythm of her own. A double break put the set beyond Serena, and Petra served it out to take it 6-2. As well as Kvitova was playing, Serena was off her game. Un-characteristic errors flew off the racket of the top seed, and her hopes of a final birth were fading. Serena had enough fight to break back at 5-2, but ultimately Petra wasn’t to be denied. Another break of serve sealed it for the world number four.
Despite the late break of serve from Serena, Kvitova ensures she remained calm. “I had 5-2, and I knew I was going to serve on more time, and with new balls. I was serving at 5-2 with the old balls and it was really tight.” “I wasn’t like ‘Oh my god’, but of course I would like to be out of the court soon. Actually in the end I broke her serve to win the match, and that was probably the easier way.”
The Czech’s whole game was on fire the whole match, but she pointed out that her serve was particularly good at 3-1 in the second set. “I think in the end of the second set she was trying to fight back. I think it was 3-1 or something like that. She had a few breaks points and I served well and played well that game. I saved my serve, which I think was very important in that moment.” Kvitova will now play Kuznetsova in the final.Embed from Getty Images
Serena Williams will now move on to Rome, where she will be looking to go at least one step further than Madrid. Despite the performance today, the world number one remained positive about her tournament as a whole. “I thought I had a really good event. You know, like I said, I didn’t come here expecting to necessarily hold the trophy and I’m not. So, you know, I did the best that I could in every match, and that’s all I could do. “
Rafael Nadal vs Grigor Dimitrov
Rafael Nadal was the first player to book his place in the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Grigor Dimitrov.
The Spaniard applied the pressure early on the Dimitrov serve, forcing three break points, all of which were saved by the Bulgarian. In his next service game however, Dimitrov wilted, and a fantastic passing shot from Nadal gave the defending champion the lead. The lead didn’t last long however as Dimitrov broke back the following game. Unfortunately, his own service troubles came back to haunt him again at 2-2, and Rafa was able to re-take the lead. The Spaniard faced more scrutiny on serve at 3-2, but this time he managed to save the two break points and keep ahead in the set. From there Nadal was able to close it out 6-3.
The second set was not as simple as Rafa would have liked. The Spaniard lost serve in his second service game of the set. Unfortunately for Dimitrov, he was playing Nadal in Madrid and the Spanish pressure soon took its toll. Nadal broke back at 3-2, prompting a racket smash from the Bulgarian due to his missed opportunity. With the crowd getting more and more solidly behind their man, Nadal pushed for the win at 5-4, and on the second match point, the king of clay proved his worth once again.
Nadal wasn’t at his best today, and I feel Dimitrov should have taken advantage of that. He won’t get many better chances to score his first win over Rafa. I think Dimitrov sensed it too hence the frustration in the middle of the second set.
John Isner vs Tomas Berdych
Tomas Berdych set up a semi-final showdown with Rafael Nadal after a come from behind 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 victory.
Isner started the match on fire. The American hit some clean return winners, good volleys and some well executed drop shots in the opening set. Isner’s form certainly took Berdych by surprise, as the Czech looked shocked at what he was seeing. An impressive return game from Isner was the difference in the opening set, which the big American took 6-3. In the second set Berdych began serving and returning better, and forced a break point early. However Isner hit a ridiculous second serve that literally bounced over Berdych to save it. As seems to be inevitable with Isner, the set went to a tiebreak, which was closely contested. Berdych saved match point on his own serve before taking it 9-7.
The final set was even, and fittingly went to another tiebreak. But unlike the majority of the set, the tiebreak was not at all even. Berdych played strong whilst Isner seemed to fall off the rails, hence the one sided 7-1 score-line.
Berdych faces Nadal next, most likely a lot more confident than their previous meetings. After a 17 match losing streak, the Czech finally got a win over Rafa at the Australian Open. He will be looking to repeat that performance tomorrow.
Andy Murray vs Milos Raonic
Andy Murray advanced to the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open with a straight sets victory over Milos Raonic. The Canadian was clearly bothered by a foot injury that forced him to withdraw from Rome next week, and Murray (ever the opportunist) looked to exploit that my moving Raonic around the court, side and side, front to back and any other direction you can think of. Raonic looked to compensate for his lack of movement by hitting huge serves averaging around the 220-230 KMH mark. Murray patiently waited for his opportunity that arose at 4-4 when he finally managed to break serve. The Brit successfully served out the set to give himself a 1-0 advantage.
The second set went much the same, with Raonic bombing serves and forehands, whilst Murray looked to use his variety to move the Canadian around. It looked like a potential tiebreak was on the horizon, but Murray had other ideas. The world number three broke against at 5-5, and then successfully served the match out to claim victory.
Murray will now face Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals.
Raonic will now skip Rome in hope that his injured foot will heal. Murray stated post match that the injury altered his game plan and that he tried to capitalise on Raonic’s lack of movement. “It certainly altered the way I played the match a little bit.” Murray said. “It’s tough because he’s still serving like 220-230 kilometres an hour in altitude and going for big second serves as well.” “I felt when I was serving, I played the match well. Made him do a lot of moving. He seemed to be moving okay side to side, it was moving forward that was causing him the issues.” “So I tried to exploit that a little bit. Yeah it was still a tricky match because in those conditions you’re still able to serve like that and get a lot of free points and make it tough.”
Murray def. Raonic 6-4, 7-5.
Kei Nishikori vs David Ferrer
David Ferrer’s hopes of a masters title in his home country were thwarted by Kei Nishikori in the final match on Manolo Santana. The Japanese star dispatched of the Spaniard in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 and will now play Andy Murray in Saturday’s semi finals.
Ferrer was the one that started the better, holding to love in the opening game and then breaking the world number five in the following game. Nishikori is known as one of the best returners on tour, so despite the early break advantage nobody was writing Nishikori out of the set. He proved that theory to be correct in the following game, breaking back to level the match. Nishikori then got a lead of his own at 3-3, breaking Ferrer and holding serve to give himself the opportunity to serve the set out. Ferrer had chances to break back as Nishikori struggled to close it out, but the Japanese eventually got it done after saving two break points.
The second set opened with three consecutive breaks of serve. Both players are known for their fantastic returning abilities, so it was to be expected that there would be plenty of breaks of serve. Nishikori came out of that flurry with the lead, and from there he took control. The world number five broke again at 3-1, and then served out the match with no trouble to book a semi final place.
Nishikori def. Ferrer 6-4, 6-2Embed from Getty Images