The round of 16 at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open features Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, a match between former French Open champion and three-time slam winner Stan Wawrinka and former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, and a match between two players who won their first Masters 1000 titles in 2019, Dominic Thiem and Fabio Fognini. Here are our Madrid Open Day 5 Predictions.
ATP Mutua Madrid Open Day 5 Predictions
Stan Wawrinka vs Kei Nishikori
Despite playing each other ten times (Wawrinka leads the head to head 6-4), this is only the second match these men have played on clay. The contest will be a thrilling match up of contrasting styles. Wawrinka’s power against Nishikori’s court craft, point construction, and speed. Wawrinka has had greater success on clay, but Nishikori’s is also a natural on the surface. Wawrinka is slowly putting together a strong run in Madrid, and a belting win against Nishikori would confirm him as a threat. Nishikori lost his last meeting with Wawrinka earlier this year in Rotterdam in a tight three set semifinal.
Prediction: Wawrinka in 2
Dominic Thiem vs Fabio Fognini
Two masters 1000 winner face off on the surface that suits them best. Fognini has yet to drop a set in Madrid and it appears the imperious form that took him to a title in Monte Carlo is undimmed. Both men have the rare distinction of having beaten Rafael Nadal multiple times on clay and both have done so this year. Thiem has the higher ranking and the more solid game, but Fognini’s irresistible artistry and effortless power can overwhelm any opponent; just ask Nadal, Murray, and del Potro all of whom have fallen at the Italian’s hands.
Prediction: Fognini in 2
Rafael Nadal vs Francis Tiafoe
Two men, neither of whom have met a forehand they couldn’t overload with top spin. Tiafoe hits hard, moves well, and is growing as a clay court player. Nadal, however, is Nadal. Felix Auger-Aliassime did well to hang with Nadal, and the Spaniard looked out of sorts at times early on in the match, but as soon as he grabbed the first break of serve in the first set, it he comfortably eased on to victory. Tiafoe has fought through two hard victories against excellent competition, Nicolas Basilashvili and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Unfortunately, this is likely to take a bit of the spring out of the young American’s legs, and he’ll need all the speed he can muster just to live with Nadal. The only time the two met previously, Nadal rolled past Tiafoe in three easy sets on hard courts at the Australian Open.
Prediction: Nadal in 2
Roger Federer vs Gael Monfils
Federer’s 52-minute romp past Richard Gasquet showed that his tennis is still at a high level, but gave little indication of how he will adapt to a true clay court challenge. Gael Monfils has had Federer’s measure on clay and off since 2014. He beat Federer in straight sets on clay in the 2014 David Cup Final (Federer, incidentally, went on to beat Gasquet in straight sets in his next match), and then again at the 2015 Monte Carlo Masters. He also pushed Federer at the 2015 French Open. Monfils has the two qualities that have caused Federer the most trouble in the last four years: exceptional court coverage, and the ability to obliterate a ball.
The most telling stat from the Federer/Gasquet match was that Gasquet won the majority of points over five shots. However, equally telling, Federer won almost 2/3 of points under 5 shots, and the vast majority of points in the match were 5 shots or less. This means that Federer must execute his hyper-aggressive game to win. It also shows that he can do so effectively. Monfils will make him work, but Federer is swinging freely with no expectations.
Prediction: Federer in 3