The entry list for Eastbourne was released today with Richard Gasquet, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon, Andreas Seppi and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez all present. The line-up is about the same quality as last year. It’s good to see Dominic Thiem commit to the event, although he is currently four places outside of the main draw. Talking of Thiem, I was so impressed with his victory over Stanislas Wawrinka on Tuesday night. After suffering a pretty dramatic collapse in Barcelona a few weeks ago, he showed tremendous poise to close out the biggest win of his career. Thiem has such an exciting game and his groundstrokes through the second and third sets were just awesome.
1. Kei Nishikori v Milos Raonic
In the bottom half where the draw has been ripped open by Novak Djokovic‘s withdrawal and Stanislas Wawrinka‘s early loss, chances are huge for the likes of Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic to make significant inroads into the draw. Nishikori has continued his recent thunderous form in Madrid. After sailing through the draw in Barcelona, he’s looking fit and healthy, and has posted two straight set wins over Ivan Dodig and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. In particular, the win over GGL, 6-3 6-1 in just 64 minutes, was very impressive considering the Spaniard has playing great the last couple of weeks.
Raonic passed his first challenge of the week by beating Jeremy Chardy in two sets without any tiebreaks and breaking serve on three occasions to win, 6-3 6-3. Raonic, who recently cracked the world’s top ten, has reached the quarter-finals of his last four tournaments. The pair have played just once before in the final of Tokyo in 2012. Nishikori won that match, 7-6(5) 3-6 6-0. Raonic is pretty reasonable on the clay, but Nishikori is proving to be even better. The Japanese star will need to be wary of the threat that Raonic poses, but overall, will be the clear favourite to progress from this match based on recent form.
Prediction: Nishikori d. Raonic in 2 very tight sets
2. Tomas Berdych v Grigor Dimitrov
After cruising through his first round match, Grigor Dimitrov was made to work extremely hard by the wildcard, Marius Copil. Dimitrov survived, 4-6 6-3 7-6(7) as he overcame what was a tremendous effort from the Romanian. Dimitrov got a little passive on the match points. His opponent served very well during the entire match and produced one magnificent down-the-line winner in the final set tiebreak; however, Dimitrov clung on for a big win. In the third round, the Bulgarian will take on Tomas Berdych, who defeated Kevin Anderson with no problems, 6-1 6-4. Berdych has won 11 consecutive matches against poor Kevin in one of the curiously one-sided head-to-heads on the ATP tour. Another head-to-head that is perhaps surprising is that Dimitrov has won both previous encounters with Berdych. Both of those matches were on hard courts and went the distance. These quick-ish clay courts suit their games well. My instinct says Dimitrov will do the hat-trick.
Prediction: Dimitrov d. Berdych in 3 sets
ATP Madrid 3rd Round Predictions
Rafael Nadal d. Jarkko Nieminen in 2 sets
Roberto Bautista-Agut d. Lukasz Kubot in 2 tight sets
Andy Murray d. Santiago Giraldo in 3 sets
Dominic Thiem d. Feliciano Lopez in 3 sets
David Ferrer d. John Isner in 3 sets
Marin Cilic d. Ernests Gulbis in 3 sets