Quarterfinal day at Barcelona saw the return of the sun and the 3 top seeds booking their place in the last 4. Even with a few notable pre-tournaments withdrawals, the tournament is set for an exciting final weekend.
In the first match of the day, Dominic Thiem ran over Yuichi Sugita with little, dishing out two virtual bagels from 0-1 in the first set and 0-2 in the second. Sugita wasn’t capable to bring anything close to the level he had shown in the previous rounds and Thiem simply overwhelmed him with his power and spin.
Next up were Andy Murray and Albert Ramos, who played easily the longest match of the tournament. Ramos had beaten Murray last week in Monte Carlo and he came tantalizingly close to repeating the feat; he had huge chances in the 2nd set and especially in the 3rd, where he served for the win, against a Murray that is still struggling to find his best level. The world #1 player didn’t play like it, but as he so often does he pulled a win from the jaws of defeat to stay alive in the tournament and get a measure of revenge against his Monte Carlo conqueror.
Murray’s win was followed by a match featuring the hometown hero Rafael Nadal against one of ‘Next Gen’ leaders Hyeon Chung. The Korean put up incredible resistance for a large chunk of it, the first set is one of the highest quality sets of tennis you’ll see all year. But as has been the norm on clay for over a decade Nadal simply had too much for the youngster and continues on course to ‘La Decima’. In his press conference, Nadal expressed relief on fighting off the challenge of a player he believes will be rising up the rankings in no time and claimed that while it is an honour to play in a court named after him he feels no extra pressure from it.
The final match of the day pitched another Next Gen member Karen Khachanov against one of the few men ever to defeat Nadal in a clay final: Horacio Zeballos. And it’s Zeballos that Nadal will be facing tomorrow. Khachanov had an absolutely dreadful performance, complaining of a foot injury, and saw his good week end in the most inglorious fashion possible.
The semifinals will now be Murray vs Thiem and Nadal vs Zeballos. There’s no question the first semifinal looks far more intriguing on paper; Thiem has looked more impressive this week and is billed by many as a potential outsider for Roland Garros. There’s ample reason to believe he can beat Murray, but there’s a reason Murray is ranked #1 in the world and no matter how shaky he might have been looking lately he can raise his game at any time. All in all, this is a 50-50 match where anything could happen. On the other hand, it’d a huge surprise if the winner of this match doesn’t take on Nadal on Sunday for the title.