Kei Nishikori gets a potentially tough opener in Madrid on Wednesday. The 6th seed is set to battle Fabio Fognini. Fognini dumped Bernard Tomic out of the tournament in round one on Tuesday in straight sets.
(6) Kei Nishikori vs Fabio Fognini
Nishikori comes to Madrid in good form. The 6th seed this week at the Mutua Madrid Open made the final in Barcelona and back in March at the Miami Open. He’s been solid in Madrid the last three years making a quarterfinal, final and semifinal. Nishikori holds a career mark of 52-21 on clay at the ATP level. He is 4-1 on the surface this season.
Fognini was solid in his opener against Tomic, winning 6-2, 6-4. The Italian saved his lone break point and was good on serve. He won 85 percent of his first serve points and 68 percent of his second serve points. He really took advantage of a weak second serve from the Aussie. Fognini won nine of 14 points played and broken Tomic three times on five chances. It was a rare win in Madrid though where Fognini had lost five of his last six main draw matches dating back to 2010.
The only time Nishikori and Fognini have played came back at the 2011 Australian Open. Nishikori was better that day to the tune of a 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-4 win. Both spit out a ton of unforced errors in that match with Nishikori racking up 52 and Fognini tallying 64. There were a ton of break chances for both players. Nishikori converted on eight of 15, while Fognini struggled to break his counterpart. The Italian only cashed in three times out of 14 chances.
While Fognini has been most known for his prowess on clay, he’s also had plenty of trouble in Masters 1000 events at this level. He is just 6-7 in Masters clay events since 2014. Nishikori meanwhile has been able to raise his game more times than not at the same events. This week’s 6th seed is 10-3 in that same span with the majority of his damage inflicted in Madrid. That does not bode well for Fognini.
From a tactical level, this figures to be yet another baseline battle. Both prefer to play there, but it’s going to be Nishikori who should own the advantage. As we’ve seen at times with Fognini, he doesn’t mind exchanging rallies from the baseline, but he often gets impatient too early and winds up spraying errors as a result. Nishikori doesn’t mind the elongated rallies and has an advantage over probably 95 percent of the players on tour with his athleticism and ability to club winners from ridiculously deep angles on this surface and most others.
Fognini can be tricky when he’s switched in, but we all know Fab Mode Bad is just one ground stroek away. Although the Italian’s record in Madrid has been poor, he’s usually battled enough to see his losses stretch to three sets. With a match under his belt already, Fognini could repeat that feat against Nishikori. In the end however, expect the 6th seed’s consistency to be a difference maker so long as his serve is part of that consistent play. When his serve fails, that’s usually when Nishikori runs into trouble.
Nishikori wins in three sets
I’ll spare any reference to that one time in that one place where someone said something and we didn’t stop hearing about it for months. Stan Wawrinka makes his 2016 Madrid debut on Wednesday, while Nick Kyrgios will looking to continue his recent run of strong play. The Aussie has made the semifinals at his last two tournaments.
(4) Stan Wawrinka vs Nick Kyrgios
We haven’t seen the Swiss since Rafael Nadal dismantled him in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals 6-4, 6-1. It wasn’t a great effort from Wawrinka who got destroyed on second serve with Nadal winning 18 of 25 points. Since making the Mutua Madrid Open final in 2013, Wawrinka has fallen on hard times at this event. He is 1-2 in his last two trips. Since the event flipped to clay in 2009, Wawrinka has lost his opening match twice and not progressed past the third round in six of seven years.
Kyrgios opened play on Tuesday with a steady 7-6 (7), 6-4 win over Guido Pella. Kyrgios did not face a break point. He won 51 of 71 points on serve for the match. More importantly, he had a good rhythm with his first serve. It landed in play 77 percent of the time, allowing him to win 42 of 55 points on first serve. When Kyrgios can avoid going to his second serve that much, you’re going to have a difficult time breaking him.
This will be meeting number four between the two and second this season. Wawrinka won in Dubai when Kyrgios checked out due to a back injury. Kyrgios trailed 6-4, 4-0 when he threw in the towel. It was the second straight match where a retirement ended the action. The Swiss quit in the infamous #SledgeGate match in Montreal last August. Wawrinka was down 4-0 when he quit with his own alleged back injury, although his may have been more about bruised pride in the end.
So here we are again and I’ll leave out anything related to #SledgeGate. If you don’t know what happened by now, welcome back to Earth and how was the space travel? Some nine months later, it should not be an issue. Perhaps in Dubai it was a nervy time for Kyrgios being in the public eye still and playing Wawrinka for the first time since that episode, but it needs to be firmly in the rear view at this point.
One can hope that we actually have both players at 100 percent fitness this time around. It’s Kyrgios who has the better form coming into this week. He made the semifinals both in Miami and Estoril in his last two tournaments. Wawrinka has drifted off the map some since that week in Dubai where he won the title. He is just 4-3 in three tournaments since and looks to be in Non-Slam Stan mode. We’ve seen it from him quite prominently since he won his first Grand Slam. You just don’t know if he’s going to be fully engaged and playing at a top level, even in a Masters event.
Perhaps playing Kyrgios will amp him up a notch or perhaps it will put his fragile psyche back in the shitter. Let’s be honest, as mentally strong as Wawrinka has looked at times in Grand Slams the past few years, he’s also reacted very poorly in other spots to the pressure and spotlight. A second round match in Madrid wouldn’t seem to possess much pressure, but the opponent on the other side of the court could.
Off the ground, The Pig would generally favor Wawrinka in this match-up more often than not. Wawrinka’s ground strokes are just better off both wings. The backhand especially is much more formidable from the Swiss. Kyrgios can match the pop with his forehand though, so if he can keep working his way around to hit forehands, he will have a chance in this one. Wawrinka’s forehand is much more vulnerable to errors, so that strategy might be employed to the best of the Aussie’s ability.
Where Kyrgios could have a distinct advance is his serve. When he finds an early rhythm, the Aussie can absolutely demolish opponents with big booming serve after big booming serve. When he doesn’t, he stays in that rushed mode and it can all fall apart. It’s something to watch early. The same goes for Wawrinka who often has a more difficult time getting his first serve in play. He is getting around 57 percent of his first serve in for the season, but in his losses too many second serves have been a killer.
if Kyrgios’ first serve is pumping, he’s got every chance to keep this competitive and send Wawrinka packing. Top seeds have not been immune to upsets in Madrid in recent times with even the top seed losing a few times in their openers over the past three years. The mental aspect of this match is exhausting to think about. You never quite know when Kyrgios might lose his mind over the smallest thing and you never quite know when Wawrinka is going to give a flying F outside of Grand Slams.
Most of me believes Non-Slam Stan trumps Cataclysm Kyrgios, so side with the Aussie to keep his good form running.
Kyrgios wins in three sets