Rafa was very comfortable in the end. I had mentioned it would either be the upset or a fairly straight forward win for the Spaniard. Fabio couldn’t get close enough to Nadal this time, I wouldn’t think his final set breaker win over compatriot Salvatore Caruso left much in the tank, even though he has won around since then. It is not the kind of preparation you need for Nadal, especially in a time where players have been saying keeping fit to the same level has been harder right now. Rafa’s biggest danger in the draw is being caught a bit cold by one of the boys coming up, it is not something that tends to happen to him for too long though. It has all been very straight forward and he has made light work of the draw once again so far. What is frightening is he says he has only recently started to train more intensely again and he is still bringing that intensity to this level. Tsitsipas had a walkover against Matteo Berrettini, the Italian fell foul of the abdominal injury and couldn’t take to the court. Does this help Stefanos for Nadal? I’m not sure but I don’t think so. Having the extra time off means there is the worry that he will come out a bit sluggish. On the other hand, after the five sets against Kokkinakkis, it might help to have some added rest. With Rafa leading the head to head 6-1, a quick start from Stefanos is imperative you feel.
I think one of the clearest things so far has been it would take some beating to stop the two Russians squaring off once again in the quarters of a slam. Medvedev and Rublev are generally very ruthless these days and there isn’t much stopping them in the first week of these draws. Having put Medvedev up for this section in my tips, I mentioned of his good head-to-head against Rublev. I hope that works for him when they meet in a few nights but I have nothing but a lot of time for Rublev too. Should be some ferocious hitting on display there. Medvedev was far too strong for Mackenzie McDonald and was back to looking in the zone in his straight-sets win. Rublev led Casper Ruud by two sets to love before the Norwegian retired with guess what? An abdominal strain. It sounds like Ruud was giving this a good go up until the point of withdrawing, feeling he couldn’t turn this around from that position.
Ash Barty was back to maintaining a pretty high level against Shelby Rogers. This could have been a nightmare against a heavy-hitting opponent but she has a little bit too much craft and guile generally for these players. It might actually help her not having the crowd, the support can actually lead to added pressure at this stage of an event. Karolina Muchova will be her last 8 opponent after she mentally outstayed Elise Mertens (another tip losing). The Belgian had her chances, particularly in the first set but couldn’t take them and she fell away pretty quickly from 5/5 in the second. I read an article saying Muchova may be the latest player to be suffering from an abdomen injury, that has not been confirmed though. The Aussie’s path may get a little easier if this is true though.
I was wondering where it was coming from but Jessica Pegula was the player that showed a little too much for Elina Svitolina. The American is playing so well and despite a second set freeze she picked it up again in the third to take control of the rallies and oust the Ukrainian. Like Medvedev/Rublev she will play a very close pal next in the massively improved Jennifer Brady. Brady ousted Donna Vekic and although the Croat was struggling with her knee and groin, you have to say Brady has been calving her way through the draw. She will be looking to at least match her best slam showing, which was the semis in New York last year.
Andy Del Potro