Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are one round away from a potential blockbuster semifinal in Monte-Carlo. They first have to get past Diego Schwartzman and David Goffin, respectively, in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Diego Schwartzman vs. (4) Rafael Nadal
It was a tale of two matches for Nadal as he heads into quarterfinal action at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Friday. The seventh-ranked Spaniard struggled in a 6-0, 5-7, 6-3 opening win over Kyle Edmund but picked up the pace dramatically to destroy Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-1 on Thursday. The latter result is more along the lines of what can be expected from Nadal in Monte-Carlo, where he is 60-4 lifetime with nine titles. This week’s fourth seed is 21-5 in 2017 and 21-2 against opponents other than Roger Federer.
Up next for Nadal on Friday is a third career meeting with Schwartzman, who is 0-2 in the head-to-head series. The Argentine went down 6-2, 6-2 on the hard courts of Acapulco in 2013 and 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5 at the 2015 U.S. Open. Playing the best tennis of his life right now, Schwartzman is up to a career-high ranking of No. 41 in the world and he will climb to at least 34th next week. So far in Monte-Carlo he has taken out Bernard Tomic, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets. At just 5’7”, Schwartzman obviously cannot serve Nadal off the court and he is forced to hit shots consistently outside of his strike zone against Nadal’s heavy topspin. If nothing else, however, the underdog will make this an entertaining baseline battle.
Pick: Nadal in 2 losing more than 7 games
(10) David Goffin vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
Djokovic and Goffin will be going head-to-head for the sixth time in their careers on Friday. All five of their previous encounters have gone Djokovic’s way and he is 11-1 in total sets against Goffin. Their most memorable showdown came at the 2015 Cincinnati Masters, where the Belgian led by a double-break at 3-0 in the third set and then failed to win another game in a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 defeat. They most recently faced each other at last year’s World Tour Finals, with Goffin taking an injured Gael Monfils’ place for one match and promptly getting blown out 6-1, 6-2.
It has hardly been one-way traffic for Djokovic so far in Monte-Carlo. The 2013 and 2015 champion escaped Gilles Simon 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 after Simon served for the match and he outlasted Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 on Thursday. Such struggles do not come as a significant surprise given the Serb’s lackluster form (14-3 in 2017 with only one title in Doha) and an elbow injury that forced him out of Miami. Goffin is 21-7 this season following impressive clay-court wins this week over Nicolas Almagro and Dominic Thiem. Against the very best players in the world, however, Goffin often gets overpowered or breaks down on his own serve–or both. He also clearly lacks belief against Djokovic, so an easier time at the office than he what he endured in rounds two and three should be in store for the No. 2 seed.
Pick: Djokovic in 2