Barcelona QF previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Chung, Thiem vs. Sugita

Rafael Nadal had been on a quarterfinal collision course with Alexander Zverev, but the Spaniard will instead go up against Hyeon Chung on Friday in Barcelona. Dominic Thiem and Yuichi Sugita are also aiming for a place in the last four.

(Q) Hyeon Chung vs. (3) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Chung will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when they battle for a spot in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Friday. It has already been an incredible week for Chung–in fact, it has to be considered his best-ever performance at the ATP level. The 20-year-old South Korean, ranked No. 96 in the world, qualified for the main draw with victories over Ernests Gulbis and Guido Pella before taking out Denis Istomin, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Alexander Zverev. Chung has not dropped a single set in five matches and only Gulbis has even managed to force a tiebreaker.

It is safe to say, however, that the competition level now ratchets up to a dramatic extent. Nadal is 50-3 lifetime in Barcelona with nine titles and he is 26-5 this season, including 7-0 on clay. The fifth-ranked Spaniard has maintained his fine form from Monte-Carlo–where he captured his 10th title at the tournament last week–with routine wins at the expense of Rogerio Dutra Silva and Kevin Anderson. Chung is playing arguably the best tennis of his career, but it is never easy to face Nadal–especially not for the first time and on clay.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 5-7 games

(4) Dominic Thiem vs. (LL) Yuichi Sugita

Chung is not the most surprising quarterfinalist of the week. That distinction belongs to Sugita, who fell to Steven Diez in the final round of qualifying but got a lucky-loser spot in the main draw when fellow Japanese star Kei Nishikori withdrew because of a wrist injury. The rest is history; Sugita has made the most of his opportunity with defeats of Tommy Robredo, Richard Gasquet (in a third-set tiebreaker), and Pablo Carreno Busta on his way to the last eight. The world No. 91 had not played a main-draw match at the ATP level in 2017 prior to this week and he had never won a main-draw match at ATP-level on clay in his entire career.

Up next for Sugita on Friday is a first-ever meeting with Thiem. The ninth-ranked Austrian would actually qualify for London with room to spare if the season ended now, even though he has been in relatively unspectacular form. Such is the extent to which Nadal and Roger Federer have been hogging all of the available points. Thiem, a champion in Rio de Janeiro and a quarterfinalist in Indian Wells, has advanced in Barcelona with straight-set wins over Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans. Another relative clay-court novice awaits, so Thiem should once again have no significant trouble on his favorite surface.

Pick: Thiem in 2

11 Comments on Barcelona QF previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Chung, Thiem vs. Sugita

  1. I only saw the first set, but I was impressed with Chung, as I was at the AO. I was especially impressed that he hung in there once Rafa broke back, and he had his chance to break again at 5-5. As someone said above, Chung could build a bit more variety into his game, especially the ability and willingness to come forward once he has an advantage in the point.

    I thought Rafa played good but not great overall, and very good or great when he needed to, in the big points. As Lucky said, I thought he did best when he didn’t try to get into long rallies, but tried to take control of the point fairly early. But it was a good test for him, for sure. He’s the favourite to take the tournament, of course, but I think Murray is building with each match, and it would be interesting to see them in the final.

      • Now that I have seen the match, I can say that Rafa stepped it up big time in that tb. He just smothered Chung. I think that was basically the match. Chung didn’t seem to have the belief after losing the tb in lopsided fashion.

        I think Rafa played well enough to beat Chung. He didn’t have to be at his best. That’s why I am glad that Chung at least gave Rafa a battle in the first set. I think Rafa needed that. He hasn’t played anymore be who can challenge him. I do think that Rafa did well in raising Kia level of play when he was down 0-30 at 5-5. Chung even had a break point. But Rafa shut it down and then took over in the tb. He did what he had to do.

        Things will be different at Madrid. Rafa is bound to have a tougher draw there. Then we can see him face done challenges. I think he will be up to the task.

        • Rafa hasn’t played anyone who can challenge him. Rafa did well in raising his level of play. *

          Stupid autocorrect in my last post.

    • MA,

      Thanks for posting that! Great read! Love hearing Rafa’s thoughts about not seeing himself as a hero. Also, his outlook on continuing to play as long as he’s happy. He has his head on straight and knows what is important.
      😍

        • MA,

          I am doing just like fine! It’s been a joy watching Rafa playing so well. I hope he can keep it up!
          😀♥️👍

          • Where did the word “like” come from in my last post? From autocorrect!

            Anyway, it shouldn’t be there!

          • Hahahaha Nny!!…I’m glad you’re ‘sounds’ fine and happy!!..What a great great timing that Rafa ‘choose’ this very moment to produce one of his best perfomance ever since his miserable 2 years slump….I think,this is the BEST cure for u Nny!Physically,mentally and spiritually..Best of wishes and happiness for u Nny!!..Warmest hugs and kisses from Malaysia!!

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