ATP Tour: Italian Open Selected Quarter-Finals Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

Damien Kayat previews two of the four quarter-finals taking place at this week's Italian Open (ATP Tour). 

Novak Djokovic 11/20 | Kei Nishikori 27/20
How refreshing it is to see Novak playing his best tennis again. At least that’s what it looked like yesterday against Ramos-Vinolas. That backhand was finally firing on all cylinders and the four-time Rome champion was clearly buoyed by familiar surroundings. This is the first quarterfinal of the year for the former World Number One and could just be the springboard to an authentic comeback trail. He has reached the final here in eight of the last ten years and seems to have finally recovered from that elbow injury. His opponent in the next round is a familiar one and should make for an exhausting spectator experience.

Kei Nishikori- in full fitness- was perhaps the one man on tour whose athleticism could mirror Djokovic at his peak. But he has battled through injuries over the last few years and has had an erratic year thus far. A semi-final appearance in the New York Open was his best performance until the clay-courts seemed to unlock the pocket dynamo that everyone loves. The run to the final in Monte Carlo really reminded the broader tennis community of his fighting spirit, with victories over Alex Zverev and Cilic underlining his return. He has already beaten Grigor Dimitrov and Phillip Kohlschreiber here and will be looking to truly test Djokovic’s so-called renaissance.

While Nishikori is one of the best defensive players on tour, he just simply doesn’t quite live up to the best. This is reflected in Djokovic’s 12-2 head-to-head record against the Japanese superstar. And there’s no reason to think that the balance of power is like to shift here, with Djokovic’ performance against Ramos-Vinolas echoing the Serb at his very best. 

Alex Zverev 9/20 | David Goffin 16/10
Plucky Belgian David Goffin will be hoping to end the remarkable run of German superstar Alex Zverev this week. Goffin is perhaps the hardest working man on tour, a fact which has probably worked to his detriment on occasion. His year has been typically consistent, without any of the fireworks that would suggest a major upset here. A semi-final appearance in the Open Sud de France was followed by a semi-final appearance in Rotterdam- both in fairly benign events. But he has acquitted himself well on the European clay-courts thus far, starting with that quarterfinal run in Monte Carlo. His performance in Barcelona was even more impressive, needing the indomitable Rafael Nadal to halt his progress at the semi-final stage. Goffin will clearly be no pushover and will require maximum concentration on the part of Zverev.

Alex Zverev is currently on an 11 match winning streak that includes those back-to-back tournament wins in Stuttgart and Madrid. He has justifiably usurped Dominic Thiem as the likeliest successor to Nadal in Paris- though the Austrian was the man to beat Nadal in Madrid. The German’s stamina seems to have improved markedly in the last few months, though there will be lingering doubts about his ability to push his body even further this week. He certainly persevered against Kyle Edmund, managing to win in straight sets with the Brit saving eight match points.

Zverev leads the head-to-head between the players 1-0, with a 2016 clay-court victory in Munich to his name. There really is little to suggest that the dynamic German will not make it a 2nd victory against the Belgian this week, despite the huge amount of time that he has spent on court of late. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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