While the women are one day ahead with their schedule at the Caja Magica, the men played their third round matches on Thursday, determining who will make it into the quarterfinals of the 2016 Mutua Madrid Open. René Denfeld recaps the action on the men’s side.
First up on Thursday in Madrid was Andy Murray, who faced Gilles Simon in a rematch of their encounter in the Spanish capital three years ago. In 2013, the Frenchman pushed Murray hard late into the night — but this time the World No. 2 was able to take care of business with relative ease. Murray never faced a break point, and won 60 percent of points on Simon’s second serve to cruise, 6-4, 6-2.
“Normally against Gilles it’s always a complicated match because of the way he plays,” Murray said. “He always makes it very difficult. There are a lot of long rallies. Because of the conditions, because it was a bit faster, I was able to get a lot more free points on my serve. I don’t think he had any break points in the match, so that helped. I served very well. I played smart tennis. That was the difference.”
In his quarterfinal, Murray is going to face noted frenemy Tomas Berdych who defeated David Ferrer in straight sets — but not without a wobble at the end of the match. The same can be said for Kei Nishikori, who got his first career win over Richard Gasquet — the No. 6 needed two attempts to serve out the match but eventually dispatched someone who has been more than a difficult opponent for him over the course of the past few years — having defeated him in all six previous encounters.
“When you lose six in a row, maybe you have to change something to beat Richard today,” he said. “I think I did pretty good everything: serve, return, and using my forehands a lot and I was playing aggressive. I think it was good tennis.”
Nishikori will face Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals, after the Australian defeated Pablo Cuevas in three hard-fought sets after being a break down in the decider. Kyrgios will be facing the Japanese for a second time in a little over four weeks, and at the Miami Open, he lost pretty soundly at the hands of the World No. 6 — and he’s aware that it’s not going to be much easier tomorrow.
“He gave me a bit of a lesson in Miami, so I think I’ll know what to do,” he said. “I think he’s playing great tennis, I think he’s in his prime at the moment. I warmed up with him a couple of days ago — I know how he plays and what I have to do but it’s going to be really tough.”
The other quarterfinal in the top half of the tournament will be contested between Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic — Djokovic defeated Roberto Bautista Agut and looked in particularly solid form from 2-2 in the opening set, while Raonic defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga under the lights, 6-4, 6-4.
“The first match of the tournament was very solid — although I thought there were some things that I could have done better,” Djokovic said. “Today, the way I played gives me a lot of satisfaction and conversation. I’m just hoping I can continue playing this well tomorrow.”
“Well, both of those guys are serving very big,” Djokovic analyzed his possible quarterfinal opponents. “Raonic probably has a slightly better serve, but Tsonga is a player that moves better on clay and plays generally better than Raonic on this surface. That doesn’t mean anything, because Raonic in the last couple of years in Madrid with this altitude has been making some good results. He’s been showing some good tennis. Both of those guys rely heavily on their first serves. If the first serve percentage is high, they can be a threat to any player on any surface.”
The last quarterfinal will be contested between Rafael Nadal and Joao Sousa. The Spaniard and the Portuguese won within minutes of each other — eliminating the last Americans, Sam Querrey and Jack Sock, respectively — in the men’s draw.
“He’s a great player. We know each other very well,” Nadal said about his quarterfinal opponent. “We have been practicing together in Mallorca this December. When he’s in advanced rounds, he’s a very dangerous player. He had an amazing victory today against Jack Sock — that’s a very dangerous, good player, especially here in altitude. He will be ready for the match of tomorrow. He will be confident. I hope to be ready for play a good match.”