Rome has continued the general trend of tennis in 2014 with shocks across the board in the both the WTA and ATP draws. Ana Ivanovic scored a magnificent straight sets win over Maria Sharapova, meanwhile Stanislas Wawrinka was bundled out in three sets by Tommy Haas. Tomas Berdych also lost and Rafael Nadal survived another epic three setter. My match previews all flopped spectacularly, but there were a few respectable predictions with Dimitrov and Errani both making the quarter-finals. Friday is quarter-final day and will be headlined by a MURRAY-NADAL MATCH.
1. Andy Murray v Rafael Nadal (ATP Rome, QF)
It’s been long overdue, but FINALLY, we have a match between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Much has been written about the best match-ups on the ATP tour. Djokovic-Federer has generally been regarded as the best and Murray-Djokovic has been the one to miss. Murray-Nadal has always been viewed pretty positively and even more so on this occasion because it will be their first match in over two and a half years. That match came in Tokyo with Murray prevailing in the final, 3-6 6-2 6-0. So much has happened since then. Nadal had the injury lay-off for his knees and more significantly, Murray won a pair of Grand Slams.
After winning Madrid, unconvincingly, Nadal has continued that trend in Rome. In the second round, he overcame an inspired performance by Gilles Simon to win 7-6(1) 6-7(4) 6-2 in the longest best of three set match of the year, lasting three hours and 18 minutes. When they went into a decider, I thought get your act together Rafa. However, after watching the third set, it quickly became apparent that Nadal was actually playing quite well. It’s a mystery what Simon has been doing for the rest of 2014 when you see him play the way he did. I still remember when he beat Juan Martin del Potro in four sets at the US Open in 2011 and he was sensational. On Thursday, Nadal was down a set again to Mikhail Youzhny. Once again, Nadal fought back to win 6-7(4) 6-2 6-1 in a match that lasted two hours and 44 minutes.
Murray has done well to reach the quarter-finals as most people seemed to have written him off this week after a disappointing loss to Santiago Giraldo in Madrid. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Murray has got the job done with two straight set wins over Marcel Granollers and Jurgen Melzer. The head-to-head won’t have much of an impact in this one since they haven’t played for so long. Nadal will be tired after two long matches on consecutive days, but he has proven before that he has machine-like qualities so he should be fine. I expect all the British media to be bigging up Murray’s chances. I’ll eat my words if Murray wins, but in my opinion, the Spaniard will still remain as the clear favourite.
Prediction: Nadal d. Murray in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)
2. Agnieszka Radwanska v Jelena Jankovic (WTA Rome, QF)
Jelena Jankovic‘s love of Rome has been shining like the sun this week. Jankovic, who has twice won this event and frequently gone deep in the draw has looked in great form this week after a series of so-so performances on the clay in 2014. In a match-up that was difficult to separate the pair, Jankovic was in scintillating form to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was forced to retire hurt at 6-2 4-0 in the late, late, late night match on Wednesday. In the third round, Jankovic silenced the Pietrangeli crowd with another superb performance against Flavia Pennetta, winning 6-2 6-3. The second set of this match featured some brilliant tennis.
Jankovic gets another shot at Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter-finals. Aga, who has never done that well on the clay, has enjoyed some excellent wins in the Madrid-Rome double. On Thursday, she took out Francesca Schiavone, 6-4 6-1. Radwanska has won the last five matches with Jankovic; their last encounter at Indian Wells, a pulsating affair, saw Jankovic come close, but not close enough, as Radwanska ran out a 7-5 2-6 6-4 winner in two hours and 33 minutes. On clay, Jankovic has her best chance of upsetting Radwanska. It won’t be easy, but form this week would suggest JJ is ready for another deep run in Rome. I think this will be the match of the day…
Prediction: Jankovic d. Radwanska in 3 tight sets
3. Carla Suarez Navarro v Ana Ivanovic (WTA Rome, QF)
Thursday’s big result saw a monstrously huge win for Ana Ivanovic, who finally beat Maria Sharapova after seven consecutive losses. Sharapova was a little ragged in her second round win over Monica Puig. I still expected her to have the edge after the Stuttgart final when Ana led by a set and a break, but couldn’t finish the job. Ivanovic came out firing once again in Rome, taking the first set, 6-1 and then stood strong when Sharapova tidied her game up to clinch a 6-1 6-4 victory. Ivanovic has secured wins over both Serena and Maria this year and I am excited to see what she can do at Roland Garros. If Serena’s dodgy thigh flares up again then Ivanovic will be the favourite to make the final from the top half.
In the quarter-finals, Ivanovic will play Carla Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard didn’t have to take to the court on Thursday as Simona Halep pulled out of the tournament with an abdominal injury. CSN has looked extremely sharp on the clay this year and enjoyed an excellent second round win over Venus Williams. CSN won 6-4 6-4, but being on court 2 and it not being streamed, the win didn’t receive a great deal of coverage. Ivanovic and Suarez Navarro have played just once before on the WTA tour. CSN was forced to retire at 6-1 4-1 down in that match in Doha. Ivanovic will be the favourite, but don’t completely write off CSN just yet, who as already mentioned, has been in excellent form.
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Suarez Navarro in 2 tight sets
WTA Rome Quarter-Final Predictions
Li Na d. Sara Errani in 2 sets
ATP Rome Quarter-Final Predictions
Grigor Dimitrov d. Tommy Haas in 3 sets
Milos Raonic d. Jeremy Chardy in 2 tight sets