French Open QF previews and predictions: Murray vs. Nishikori, Wawrinka vs. Cilic

The top four seeds in the top half of the French Open draw have all advanced to quarterfinal Wednesday. Andy Murray is going up against familiar foe Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka is facing Marin Cilic.

(1) Andy Murray vs. (8) Kei Nishikori

Murray and Nishikori will be squaring off for the 11th time in their careers when they clash in the quarterfinals of the French Open on Wednesday. The head-to-head series stands at 8-2 in favor of Murray, but dating back to the start of 2016 the story has been pure competitiveness. Three of their last four encounters have required final sets, including a Davis Cup first-round rubber (taken by Murray at home in Great Britain), at the U.S. Open (won by Nishikori), and at the World Tour Finals (Murray).

Nishikori has already gone the distance once at Roland Garros, needing five sets to subdue up-and-coming Korean Hyeon Chung in the third round. Japan’s top player appeared to be in line for another tough day–or even worse–at the office when he faced Fernando Verdasco in round four, but Nishikori recovered from a disastrous opening set to prevail 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0. The world No. 9 preceded those results by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis in four and Jeremy Chardy in straights. Murray has advanced with victories over Andrey Kuznetsov, Martin Klizan, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Karen Khachanov, dropping sets only to Kuznetsov and Klizan. The No. 1 seed has picked up the pace in his last two outings and it would be typical of Nishikori to follow up an impressive performance with an injury-plague letdown in his next match.

Pick: Murray in 3

(3) Stan Wawrinka vs. (7) Marin Cilic

Rafael Nadal has surrendered a mere 20 games through four rounds and Cilic is No. 2 in that department this fortnight (26). Although it must be said that the eighth-ranked Croat has benefited from a favorable draw, he has also been extremely impressive. He has not surrendered more than three games in any set while disposing of Ernests Gulbis, Konstantin Kravchuk, Feliciano Lopez, and Kevin Anderson (the latter retired in the second set on Monday). This a much-needed stellar result on the big stage for Cilic, who compiled a combined 5-6 record at slams and Masters 1000s earlier this season but captured a title on the red clay of Istanbul.

Up next for the seventh seed is a 14th career contest against Wawrinka, who is dominating the head-to-head series 11-2. The third-ranked Swiss is 4-0 against Cilic on clay and 1-0 at Roland Garros, having gotten the job done 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 6-1 in 2008. Wawrinka triumphed at this event last spring for his third career Grand Slam title and he is suddenly looking like a contender once again. The 32-year-old slumped earlier in 2017 but lifted the Geneva trophy late last month and is now riding an eight-match winning streak. Especially on this surface, Wawrinka will be able to hit through the court more easily than Cilic–most notably on the backhand side.

Pick: Wawrinka in 4

63 Comments on French Open QF previews and predictions: Murray vs. Nishikori, Wawrinka vs. Cilic

    • Standy in 4, ditto.

      I’m not super convinced about Stan over Cilic though. But I’ve never been convinced about Stan. Every time he wins one of these GS’s it’s unbelievable to me.

      And I’m a big fan of Kei getting a set somehow.

  1. “Wawrinka triumphed at this event last spring for his third career Grand Slam title and he is suddenly looking like a contender once again.”

    I’m I misreading this?, Wawrinka lost in the Semi to Murray last year.

  2. Murray is too consistent and plays such a low risk game compared to Nishikori’s high risk, power game.

    On hardcourts Nishikori thrives off the court speed, his foot speed and his power and can manage the occasional upset against Andy but unfortunately on clay Murray just makes him play too many extra balls.

    Murray wins in 3. At best, Nishikori might get the occasional break of serve.

  3. Furthermore, Murray’s superior return of serve and defense is allowing him to apply the pressure early in each of his opponent’s service games. This constant pressure translates to Murray always being in control of each set.

    • Jim, giving VR a run for his unmatched technical analysis (and from what I’ve seen so far, objectivity too!).


      • Well, Murray have a great chance of winning, but not because of his game being superior, but due to the fact that Nishikori’s body is fragile and not in the best shape.
        Nishikori doesn’t need time when playing, unlike Klizan and Kuznetsov.
        He can play with pace.
        If you take a look at the games against Kuznetsov and Klizan, they were both able to steal a set each from Murray. These players however, are so inconsistent that Murray could just use his low risk game to win. Nishikori is by far not as inconsistent. He won’t miss as many shots as Klizan and Kuznetsov did and he will take the balls much earlier, allowing windows to open up.
        Murray is playing extremly bad right now, he’s the worst number 1 i’ve ever seen. A Nishikori in form would win 3-0.

        • You don’t think Andy is improving, Sam? I’m more in agreement with Ricky but I agree if Kei isn’t injured, he’s in a different class than Klizan, Kuznetsov and Khachanov.

          • I do believe that he is improving, but not the way I want to. Murray is just playing it safe, nothing else. I loved how he last year decided to put some power behind his shots, which allowed him to constantly counterattack. He doesn’t have this weapon anymore.
            Klizan was serving for the set with a break up both in the first and fourth set. He got too nervous and Murray was able to keep the balls in play.
            He had such an easy match-up, Murray. Power players, going for broke for Every shot. That is exactly the type of players Murray wants to play right now. Delpo was clearly not feeling good, he barely ran and didn’t have a backhand, so every time Murray wanted to, he could’ve neutralised the point. Murray hasn’t showed me anything so far

  4. Wawrinka is a bad matchup for Cilic, especially on clay. Out of there 5 matches on clay, Cilic has only taken 1 set and that was in 2006 when Wawrinka just turned Pro.

    Wawrinka wins in 4 sets but maybe 3 if he goes into God mode before his all important semi final against Murray.

  5. I’ll also add, Wawrinka hits with too much topspin and power for Cilic. His cutesy style can’t handle it.

    • I don’t think the topspin is the problem. Wawrinka is the best player in the world when it comes to creating angles right now when Nole is playing bad. Cilic is a tall, stationary machine playing close to the baseline. He needs time, so when Wawrika finds the angles, tjere Will be No time for cilic to counter

  6. I’ve been very impressed with Cilic so far, and I think this is the most likely round for Stan to fall. Few will agree with me, but I think if Stan wins the QF then he goes into Full God Mode for the last two rounds and takes the tournament (FGM won’t be necessary to beat Murray, who takes down Kei fairly easily).

    Back to Cilic: at this point he is definitely the dark horse to win the whole thing. Despite the difference in surface, there are definite shades of his USO victory. When a guy with his size and talent gets on a roll, he is almost impossible to beat. He may be a a bit cutesy at times, but he’s got plenty of power when he needs it. So: Stan in a narrow victory, 5 sets. If Stanimal fails to show up, Cilic in 4.

    • Stan definitely did not go into FGM at AO this year after he won the QF. He lost to a 35 year old Fed in the semifinal. But oh, I forgot. Fed is always in the Ultimate God Mode ( except when he isn’t).

        • Yes, Stan gets a mental block against Roger, apart from two great wins on clay. He should have beaten him at WTF two years ago, but totally choked at the end.

      • Fed was playing pretty well though. He had some pretty quality wins for a 35 year old. And Stan ain’t a spring chicken either.

  7. I fancy Nishi to get a set.He,s better on clay than people give him credit.Remember Madrid 2014.
    Cilic is playing unbelievable on clay this year.But I still give Stan the edge,esp. if it goes to five.

  8. I think both Wawrinka and Murray will qualify for the semi final. French Open is finally getting exciting. Now I can watch live stream with a VPN and unblock online channels from anywhere. Learn more on this website VPNSports.

    • This is surprising to see Nishi come out and win the first set pretty easily.

      Can he keep it up?

      Cilic up a break against Stan.

  9. Kei is not giving up any ground so far. Trying very hard to not get pushed back, hitting deep. About to break a second time and does 5-2 Kei, first set.

    Andy might just have to out-last him – if he wakes up in time. Kei has the first set. 6-2. That ballboy can play, Paul 😀

    • No, not any more the match has flipped. Kei unable to hold position and Andy in charge. Ever since Andy got a time violation warning — he woke up and is now playing to win. Kei’s having a tough time. Andy has set points 2nd set and wins it 6-1.

    • Yes,only Murray did it the hard way.
      I’m a bit worried that things have been too easy for Rafa so far. There wasn’t one opponent who was even remotely challenging. Thiem will be the first. It’s great of course at his age that he could save so much energy – very different from the AO. But, as others have also stated, he might be a tad undercooked. On the other hand this is clay and RG. With his great experience and clay expertise Rafa doesn’t need to win challenging matches in order to keep his mojo running. And from now on the true challenge begins for Rafa. If he survives the Thiem hurdle (which is likely but certainly not a given) he will have mastered the second best clay courter of the season, and will then meet a multiple slam winner in the final – most likely a recent former RG champ. That would’ve been impossible until 2015. But yes, the last couple of years has indeed produced two RG champs not named Nadal 😉

  10. Nishikori a break down in the second set.

    I think he’s a tremendous value @2.5++ now. Will win in 4 IMO

  11. Can’t wait for the grass season. Fed 95% will win Stuttgart next week based on the weak lineup; he’s never won it before. Halle will be somewhat challenging, lineup is a little steeper. Winning Wimbledon though will be a challenge, he’s certainly the favorite but he’s not an overwhelming one like Rafa was for FO.

  12. Nishi is not done yet. He’s giving Murray a real battle. The tennis channel commies said that Murray was complaining to his box about his legs. When he tried to accelerate his legs just let him down.

    • Hawks, I know you absolutely despise “CB”, but man oh man do I want a Rafa/Stan final so badly!! What is the one thing that could make this La Decima even sweeter for you, Hawks? If Rafa were to La Decimate Stan to GET La Decima! 🙂


  13. Stan just too much for Cilic, who played well in stretches but couldn’t maintain it. When his serve is working along with his ground strokes like today, I can’t see Murray beating him.

    I know everyone here wants Rafa to win, but I think a Stan-Thiem final would be dynamite.

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