Basel QF previews and picks: Nadal vs. Cilic, Sock vs. Young

Rafa 3A blockbuster quarterfinal on Friday in Basel will pit Rafael Nadal against Marin Cilic. A far more surprising showdown features fellow Americans Jack Sock and Donald Young.

(7) Marin Cilic vs. (3) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Cilic will be squaring off for just the fourth time in their careers and for the first time in more than four years when they clash in the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors Basel on Friday. Nadal is leading the head-to-head series 2-1 after cruising 6-1, 6-3 on the clay courts of Rome in 2011. They have split their two previous hard-court encounters with respective blowouts; Cilic dominated 6-1, 6-3 in the 2009 Beijing semifinals before Nadal coasted 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in round four of the 2011 Australian Open.

Despite a mostly disappointing season, Nadal qualified comfortably for the World Tour Finals. The seventh-ranked Spaniard is starting to post improved results, with a final in Beijing, a semifinal in Shanghai, and now a quarterfinal in Basel thanks to three-set wins over Lukas Rosol and Grigor Dimitrov.

Unless he gets an alternate spot, Cilic will not be returning to London–where he made his year-end championship debut in 2014. But that is mainly because a shoulder injury forced him to miss basically three full months of the season. At the moment, the 13th-ranked Croat is playing like a sure-fire top 10 player. He is 17-4 since the start of the U.S. Open and 6-0 in his last six matches, a stretch that includes a title last week in Moscow and straight-set Basel victories at the expense of Marco Chiudinelli and Teymuraz Gabashvili. Cilic has the prototypical game that can trouble Nadal: big serve, first-strike groundstrokes, and a flawless two-handed backhand. And unlike Rosol, he is consistent enough to execute his game-plan.

Pick: Cilic in 2

Donald Young vs. Jack Sock

It’s not often that anyone–especially not an American–faces three consecutive Americans at a 32-man indoor event in Europe. But that is what Sock will do when he goes up against Young on Friday. The world No. 29 has already taken out countrymen Denis Kudla and John Isner, both in straight sets. A red-hot Sock is an outstanding 34-16 for the season and coming off a runner-up showing last week in Stockholm.

Surprisingly, this is only the second career meeting between Sock and Young, and first at the ATP level. They previously collided at the 2013 Winnetka Challenger, where Sock prevailed 6-3, 6-4. Also back on the rise just like his opponent, Young registers at 49th in the world thanks in part to an improbably dramatic run to the U.S. Open fourth round. The 26-year-old has advanced this week with victories over Henri Laaksonen and Kevin Anderson. This should be high-quality affair with both men extremely confident right now, but an edge goes to Sock based on superior firepower.

Pick: Sock in 3

39 Comments on Basel QF previews and picks: Nadal vs. Cilic, Sock vs. Young

  1. Hah! What did I say! For all the grief I have taken here, I was the one who said – it ain’t over until it’s over. I was with Rafa all the way!

    Rafa in 3 sets! Congratulations to me!

    Way to go, champ! Rafa is in the semifinals! 🙂

    I believed in you, Rafa!

    • Tenngranders will have to charter a plane to gatecrash the celebration party if you clean up on your parlay.

  2. Now Fed has to come out and play. Good, I can sit back and watch without a care!

    I kept thinking to myself, if Rafa can just find a way to get through this match, he’s got a great chance against Gasquet in the semis!

    This is just unbelievable!

    No one can say Rafa had an easy draw here! But he’s been up to the test!

    • I was forgetting he plays Gasquet next. Well their h2h is 13-1 and that was a retirement by Rafa back in 2003 on the Challenger circuit.

    • Rafa keeps to be moving steady, gaining confidence slowly, it would be great if he competes on Sunday, and even greater if he beats Roger. I’m sure Roger would still not like to play Rafa even if Rafa is not in top form!! Vamos, Rafa, one game at a time!

  3. Cilic mixed some awesome shots hitting the lines with some ridiculous shanks.
    Rafa still needs fixing his winners to UEs ratio.

  4. Cilic had 49 UE’s! Rafa with 26. He was missing a lot in the first set and a half, but got it together in that third set.

    I am still on cloud nine over this victory! 🙂

    I am raising my glass and giving Rafa three cheers’

    Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

  5. Rafa is trying to be more aggressive, so there will be more UE’s. As long as he’s going for his shots and staying closer to the baseline, I can live with the UE’s. He will get that sorted out.

    What a week this has been for Rafa! All big serving guys!

    Rafa was so happy at the end of that match. He couldn’t contain his joy!

    I am just trying to savor this moment. 🙂

  6. Interesting that Annacone thinks Rafa was just average in this match and that it was an accomplishment to beat the #12 player not being at his best. I think he gave Rafa a grade of “C” for this match. I don’t care! I’ll take it because Rafa is going in the right direction.

  7. I haven’t seen one of Rafa’s matches since Wimby this year so this did seem as an average display from him but knowing where he’s coming from it’s a great achievement and Rafa is right in expressing his satisfaction at the end. Well done Rafa

  8. According to Koenig and he other guy on Sky whose name escapes me, Cilic was a big test for Rafa, bigger than Rosol and Dimi but now that Rafa has beaten Cilic, all of a sudden it’s no big deal to beat world #12.

    That’s why Rafa says he doesn’t about what these people have to say about him and his game.

  9. @ nadline,

    I sure know what Ricky’s prediction was 🙂 that is why I said his” inner” or I should have stated “hidden” doubts…he seems to constantly refuse to come out with his real feelings about this…he does not want to let Fed dearest down… 🙂

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