I cannot remember a better line-up of WTA quarter-finals for a big event in quite some time. For me, it’s disappointing that all four of them are up first and second on the schedule. Of course, I am focusing on this from a selfish point of view that I won’t be able to watch any of them! The semi-finals are guaranteed to be just as good though. The mens tournament has been a complete contrast and features many surprising names in the last eight. I will add the final mens quarter to the list on Friday morning.
Poll Results: Surprisingly, 55% went for Safarova to beat Kvitova. In the other two polls, the majority went for the winner. 62% correctly went for Berdych to beat Dimitrov and a whopping 92% plumped for Nishikori to beat Raonic.
1. Maria Sharapova v Li Na (WTA QF)
As I have already mentioned, the line-up of womens matches is pretty tremendous for Friday. The quarter-finals will be spearheaded by an extremely intriguing quarter-final between Maria Sharapova and Li Na. The pair haven’t played since the final of Stuttgart last year and it feels like a heavyweight clash, coming in the quarter-finals. Sharapova continued her supreme dominance over Sam Stosur with a hard fought 6-4 6-3 third round victory. She put in a much improved performance after being on the brink of defeat in her second round match with Christina McHale. Li lost her first set of the tournament on Thursday to Sloane Stephens. It was another gutsy win, coming through whilst not playing at her best, 2-6 6-3 6-2. Li has become particularly effective at winning ugly in 2014, which has seen her move comfortably clear at number two in the world rankings.
Personally, I have never enjoyed Sharapova v Li matches. Both players have similar game styles, which can often cancel each other out and lead to error-strewn affairs. This match though has quite a pull to it with their respective positions in the rankings swapping since they last met. The head-to-head is also quite even with Sharapova leading 8-5. The last three matches have had a different winner. In this match-up, whoever plays better on the day always seems to win as oppposed to one player having a mental block. Both have belief they can beat each other and you get the sense there is a great deal of respect between the pair. In their last nine matches, eight of them have been decided in straight sets with the beautifully horrendous 2012 Rome final (it was bloody entertaining!) standing alone as a three setter. There’s good arguments for both players prevailing. Personally, I feel Sharapova is coming back to some really strong form and will have the edge in this clash.
Prediction: Sharapova d. Li in 2 tight sets
2. Serena Williams v Petra Kvitova (WTA QF) Serena has pulled out of the tournament
Three matches in and Serena Williams is well on the way to potentially claiming her third consecutive title in Madrid. In Thursday’s last 16 match, Serena overcame Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-2 6-3 in 76 minutes. Her next opponent will be Petra Kvitova. After quickly going down 0-4 in the first set to Lucie Safarova, Petra rebounded strongly to post a straight sets win, 6-4 6-3. This has been a really sound week for Kvitova after a sluggish start to the clay court season in Stuttgart. She’s looked some way from her best, but with every win, there have been some improvements in her game. I’ve always enjoyed the Serena v Kvitova match-up even if it’s been entirely one sided. Serena has won all five matches although they did play out a terrific match in Doha last year where Serena scraped by, 7-5 in the decider. Kvitova is one of the few players who can reach a level that can match, or even top Serena. This is also a really good surface for Kvitova as she proved winning the Madrid title in 2011. However you cannot ignore Petra’s general form this year and it is very unlikely she will be able to consistently maintain a high enough level to upset Serena.
Prediction: Serena d. Kvitova in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)
3. Ana Ivanovic v Simona Halep (WTA QF)
Ana Ivanovic has continued to showcase some of her very best form in Madrid this year. After an excellent week in Stuttgart where she could have easily got disheartened after losing to Maria Sharapova in the final from a set and a break up, she has cruised through her three matches in the Spanish capital. Her best performance came in the third round with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Ivanovic hit 29 winners to 9 unforced errors, which are fantastic stats and demonstrate how well she is playing right now. Ivanovic takes on Simona Halep in a tasty looking quarter-final match.
Halep came through a drawn out three setter with Sabine Lisicki, eventually turning the screw midway through the second set, but never really finding her best tennis. Lisicki played well and it was her best tournament of the year so far. She looks healthy although didn’t seem her normal self in the decider as she was quite passive and got moved around the court by Halep; having not played a great deal of tennis this year, I wonder if that was due to tiredness. Ivanovic beat Halep in their most recent encounter on clay in Fed Cup action a few weeks ago. Halep beat Ivanovic when they played in Sofia at the end of 2013, coming back from 0-3 down in the decider to post a 2-6 6-1 6-3 victory. Ivanovic’s form has been so impressive these last few weeks, that I think it would take a really classy performance from Halep to halt her progress.
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Halep in 2 sets
4. Rafael Nadal v Tomas Berdych (ATP QF)
Rafael Nadal has sauntered into the quarter-finals for the loss of just six games with straight set wins over Juan Monaco and Jarkko Nieminen. Yes, he’s been playing well, but with respect to Nieminen and Monaco, neither are huge forces on the ATP tour. Nadal’s draw has rather conveniently, opened up like a dream. I believe he would have been much more wary of Grigor Dimitrov over Tomas Berdych. In the third round, it was Berdych who prevailed to net a first ever win over the Bulgarian with a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory. Nadal has won his last 15 completed matches against Berdych. This match-up is all in Berdych’s head. Nadal has lost at the quarter-final stage of his last two tournaments and Berdych can at least draw on the efforts of David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, who both have equally negative head-to-head records against Rafa. Despite all this, Nadal will be a heavy, heavy favourite.
Prediction: Nadal d. Berdych in 2 tight sets
WTA Madrid Quarter-Final Predictions
Agnieszka Radwanska d. Caroline Garcia in 3 sets: After starting the season with a significant losing streak, Garcia has turned it all around and suddenly looks the real deal. She enjoyed a fantastic win over Errani on Thursday. Radwanska destroyed Vinci in the third round and has done remarkably well to make the quarters with a very difficult draw. Often when a player saves match points as Radwanska did against Kuznetsova on Tuesday, they push on with a big boost in confidence. Garcia can win this, but I believe Radwanska’ experience at this stage of big tournaments may give her the edge.
ATP Madrid Quarter-Final Predictions
Santiago Giraldo d. Roberto Bautista Agut in 3 sets: Side by side in the rankings at numbers 45 and 46, these two have both enjoyed excellent years so far. Giraldo made the final in Barcelona and has continued that success into Madrid, beating Tsonga AND Murray back-to-back in STRAIGHT sets. Bautista-Agut is very solid, but Giraldo’s recent form has been exceptional.
Kei Nishikori d. Feliciano Lopez in 2 tight sets: Nishikori is looking in fine form and if he stays healthy, I think he will make the final. Lopez benefited from a walkover by Dominic Thiem, which was such a shame. He won’t be a pushover though and thrives on this surface. A couple of years ago, he played a brilliant match with Federer where he lost out in three tiebreak sets.
David Ferrer d. Ernests Gulbis in 3 sets: In the late night match, Ferrer closed out in Isner in straight sets and without a tiebreak. Gulbis has had a fine week, beating both Dolgopolov and Cilic. This should be a pretty close match with Gulbis playing so well this week, but I’ll take Ferrer in three.