Miami SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Fognini

Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini will be squaring off for the 11th time in their careers when they battle for a spot in the Miami Open final on Friday.

Nadal is leading the head-to-head series 7-3, including 3-1 on hard courts. That is not a particularly bad record by Fognini’s standards, however, and it has been even better for the Italian of late. He is an even 3-3 in their last six showdowns, a stretch that includes a shocking 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 comeback in the third round of the 2015 U.S. Open. Nadal has since won two straight at Fognini’s expense; 7-5, 6-3 on the hard courts of Beijing in during the 2015 fall swing and 6-2, 7-6(1) on the red clay of Barcelona last season.

Another Nadal-Fognini showdown could not have been expected when the draw was released with the two veterans in different quarters, but Fognini is in the midst of his best–and certainly most surprising–Masters 1000 result. No matter that the world No. 40 won a grand total of two matches in his first four tournaments of the season; he is suddenly in fine form. Fognini upset Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Indian Wells second round and is through to the Miami semis thanks to victories over Ryan Harrison, Joao Sousa, Jeremy Chardy, Donald Young, and Kei Nishikori.

“I (am) always feeling good (on hard courts),” Fognini assured. “Of course this one is the best (hard-court) result of my career at the moment…. At the moment I’m just happy. Of course it’s a big, big tournament for me. (I’m) feeling really good on court; happy about my performance. Of course the result, it’s positive. It’s like a dream, maybe.”

Nadal’s entire 2017 campaign has been stellar, albeit not quite dream-like simply because Roger Federer handed him a pair of defeats at the Australian Open (final) and Indian Wells Masters (fourth round). The sixth-ranked Spaniard is 18-2 against non-Federer opponents in 2017 and has advanced this fortnight by taking out Dudi Sela, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Nicolas Mahut, and Jack Sock. Only Kohlschreiber has managed to steal a set–which the German did in stunning 6-0 fashion only to go down 0-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Kohlschreiber and–to a lesser extent–Sock threw everything they had at Nadal and came up empty-handed. Fognini survived tough three-set tests against Sousa and Chardy, but the competition level from start to finish has been nothing like what the underdog will face on Friday. Nishikori was far less than 100 percent physically in their quarterfinal clash and even Harrison, less importantly, was massively hampered by a back problem in round one.

Fognini had never been this far in a such a big hard-court tournament and going one step farther at the expense of an in-form Nadal may be too much to ask.

Pick: Nadal in 2

10 Comments on Miami SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Fognini

  1. I am getting a bit fed up myself with hearing that Rafa won because his opponents played badly. Rafa has served quite well in his last few matches and that is entirely on him.

    One might say that Rafa avoided a double break against Sock when he missed that volley. But that is the sport. You have to make that shot if you want to beat Rafa. Then Rafa capitalized by breaking. That wasn’t luck.
    Also, late in the second set Rafa was down 0-30 on his serve. He had to fight to hold his serve and luck was not a factor!

    The truth is that Rafa won his match against Sock in much the same way he had won throughout his career. He did not let Sock play his game. Then when Sock did play much better in the second set, Rafa got a lucky break and then took advantage by breaking Sock. He blunted Sock’s momentum. Then he held his serve when he was down on his serve. He did not let Sock back in the match!

    I call that a well played match! Way to go, Rafa!

    • When fedfawns say that, it just means that Rafa is heading in the right direction.

      Let’s hope that they continue “playing badly”.

      • Hawks,
        When you fedfawn, are you referring to anyone who is a fan of Roger Federer? Judging by our past discussions about biases, I’m pretty sure you don’t think that any fan of Roger Federer is automatically a “fedfawn”… But if you were, it would rather Augusta-like/hypocritical. 🙂

        I only ask because, while I know that the world is full of “fedfawns”, “rafatards”, and whatever they call Nole fanatics these days (although I personally never use these names myself), I also know that there are many fans of these players who are respectful, respectable fans. In fact, I personally believe that the majority of fans of each player are good fans, and that the bad ones stand out the most because they’re the ones trolling on social media.

        My favorite thing is to go to a highlight video on YouTube featuring any combination of those three players and look at the comment section… It will usually start with something like, “Federer is a crybaby and sucks at tennis!” And then, “Nadull is a piece of shit and is on steroids!” “Fedfans are totally the worst!” “Omg, Rafa fans are supremely the most unbearable!” “No Fedfans are the worst!” “No Rafans are the worst!” And back and forth and back and forth it goes….. Until finally the Fed trolls and Rafa trolls suddenly realize, “Wait! Oh my god, Djokovic fans are the absolutely worst, undoubtably!!” And then the Fed/Rafa trolls just talk shit about Nole for a while, until inevitably the Nole fans see this and then, of course, have to chime in about how Rafa and Fed suck and that they have been “Nole’s bitches” recently. And blah blah blah blah….. And all I can think is, do these fans of each respective player ACTUALLY THINK that they are somehow not as bad as the other players’ fans?? It blows my mind. It used to annoy the shit out of me, but now it typically just makes me laugh because these people truly do think that they are somehow different than the other fans. ?

        Anyway, I like to think that those people are just a minority of Big 4 fans. Generally speaking, I don’t often meet too many people who run their mouth like that in person… Sure, there are plenty of them who are in the crowd at matches, but it’s definitely not all of them.

  2. Rafa’s not played extraordinary tennis but he has played good tennis. Guys, he has made the finals of 3/4 hard court events in this year!! He was struggling to win matches in 2015 ! He has made great progress. Now, if he can go one step better here, he will enter the clay season like a tsunami!

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