Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Djokovic advances to Madrid semifinals; Nishikori withdraws

Rita Gibson | 14 May, 2017, 23:59

Four-time champion Rafael Nadal survived his opening match at the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday, beating familiar foe Fabio Fognini 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 after two hours and 57 minutes. "I know it is going to be a day that either I play really well or I'm not going to have many chances".

As rain started to fall outside, it was Nadal who made it home safe and dry, Goffin producing too many unforced errors - including a decisive double fault - to stay competitive in the breaker.

Nadal claimed the first break in the second game of the second set and maintained his recent momentum to earn what was ultimately a comfortable win. But the French is more important. "So to win the matches like this definitely helps confidence".

On the other hand, Djokovic has not had the best of starts to the season as he is yet to reach the final of a tournament after his title-winning run at Doha.

"It was a lovely game, we both played at the very highest level and there were great points for everyone to see", Nadal told Spanish Television.

"I think if he continues playing as he's been playing today and winning matches, it'slogical we're going to see the same Djokovic as we're used to seeing". He schooled a clearly frustrated Tomas Berdych who just could not get it together when it counted, except when it came to killing his racquet at the end. "I think I've done my homework".

Because since that French Open victory, Djokovic has hit the wall.

It was Djokovic's first match since splitting with longtime coach Marian Vajda.

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Djokovic now leads the head-to-head record against Nadal 26-23, including winning their last seven meetings (not to mention 15 straight sets) and their last three clashes on clay. "My attitude and the will to win today's match was there".

While the numbers favour Djokovic as the favourite, Nadal has made a remarkable comeback from injuries and is eyeing his third consecutive clay-court tournametn victory after capturing Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

Fognini had three career wins over Nadal, including one in the 2015 U.S. Open, but had lost the last three in straight sets.

"Unfortunately, I'm still not 100 per cent so I'd prefer not to take a risk", said the Japanese.

The world number two stepped out onto Manolo Santana Court for only the second time without his tightly-knit coaching staff, having split with the trio before the tournament commenced at the beginning of the week.

The women's draw saw Romania's Simona Halep, the defending champion, move into round four.

Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Wang Qiang of China 6-4, 7-5 and Latvian Anastasia Sevastova beat Spain's Lara Arruabarrena 7-5, 6-2.

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