Buenos Aires SF previews and picks: Nadal vs. Berlocq, Monaco vs. Almagro

Monaco (vs. Stepanek in Cincinnati)Rafael Nadal is one win away from a Buenos Aires title match against either doubles partner Juan Monaco or fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. Standing in Nadal’s way on Saturday is Carlos Berlocq.

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Berlocq

Nadal is still trying to pick up steam in his comeback from a second half of 2014 that was doomed by a wrist injury and appendicitis. His first three events of this season did not go well, with losses to Michael Berrer in Doha, Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open, and Fabio Fognini last week in Rio de Janeiro. At the Argentina Open, however, Nadal eased past Facundo Arguello then destroyed Federico Delbonis 6-1, 6-1 in the quarters.

Up next for the fourth-ranked Spaniard is a fourth career meeting with Berlocq on semifinal Saturday. All three of their previous encounters–all in 2013–have gone Nadal’s way. He prevailed twice on clay and once on hard courts at the Shanghai Masters, winning six of seven total sets. Not unlike his opponent, Berlocq came into this week with no momentum. The 74th-ranked Argentine was just 1-4 for the year, but he booked his spot in the semis by defeating Diego Schwartzman, Fabio Fognini, and Blaz Rola all in straight sets. Berlocq is playing inspired tennis in front of his home crowd, but he does not have the necessary weapons to deal with such a steep climb in competition level.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 8-10 games

Juan Monaco vs. Nicolas Almagro

Monaco and Almagro will also be squaring off for the first time since 2013. Almagro leads the head-to-head series 7-3 (6-3 at the ATP level), including 6-2 on clay. The two veterans faced each other twice on the slow stuff in 2013, with Almagro getting the job done 6-3, 7-5 in Barcelona and 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 in Hamburg.

Both men are seeking some resurgent form. Almagro missed much of last season due to a foot injury, but he reached the Sao Paulo quarterfinals and so far in Buenos Aires he has ousted Pablo Andujar, Albert Ramos, and Tommy Robredo. Monaco plunged out of the top 100 last August and September, but he is back up to No. 60 and climbing. Coming off a quarterfinal in Rio de Janeiro, the 30-year-old Argentine boasts wins this week over Maximo Gonzalez, Leonardo Mayer, and Pablo Cuevas. Monaco’s two-hour and 38-minute battle against Cuevas will not help as he attempts to withstand Almagro’s superior firepower.

Pick: Almagro in 2

2 Comments on Buenos Aires SF previews and picks: Nadal vs. Berlocq, Monaco vs. Almagro

  1. I am going to take some positives out of this tournament so far. I think that’s what Rafa does.

    First, I have noticed in Rafa’s last few matches that his dtl and cc backhand seem to be have reappeared. He’s hitting those shots with more authority and confidence and accuracy. Even before that mind blowing dtl backhand winner against Delbonis yesterday. He’s going for that shot now. In this match he was hitting his backhands so much better. That’s a good sign.

    Second, Rafa did fight back from 2-6 down in the tb. Now, one can say that he should not have been in that position in the first place, but he was still mentally present enough to raise his level of play and erase four set points. That’s a good thing! Then he played some great pressure shots to get the tb and the first set.

    Third, Rafa played better in the second set than he did in the first set. That was also the case against Delbonis. At least in this match he faced an opponent who came to play and didn’t quit after losing the first set. He went for his shots and forced Rafa to raise his level of play. Rafa’s court positioning in the second set was much better, not standing so far back. He was more aggressive. getting better court positioning. I think he wore down Berlocq in the second set.

    Now Rafa has to win the final. That’s it. He needs this title. This is a work in progress. Just watching Novak and Fed in the final, made me realize how much work Rafa still has to do. But he will get there.

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