Rafael Nadal returns the ball to David Ferrer during his  match at the Barcelona Open, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Nadal won in straight sets. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Rafael Nadal returns the ball to David Ferrer during his match at the Barcelona Open, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Nadal won in straight sets. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)|Associated Press

Tennis: In Barcelona Open quarterfinals, Abrams picks Nadal v Struff, Thiem v Pella, Nishikori v Carballes Baena, Medvedev v Jarry

Matches start at 6:30 am EDT. 

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
Barcelona, Spain
Friday, April 26, 2019

As the Barcelona Open reaches the Final Eight, the draw features an interesting mix of top-ranked veterans, surprising youngsters, and overachieving journeymen vying for the right to play for the title here in Spain. Are Nadal’s days of clay court domination over? Can Thiem take a title to get ready for major war in Paris? Is Nishikori ready to challenge the world’s two best clay court players? And who’s better . . . Jamie Fillol or his grandson, Nicolas Jarry? All these questions and more will be answered in the next three days. So grab your socks, shed your locks, and watch closely as this Masters 500 tournament comes to a close.

Rafa Nadal over Jan-Lennard Struff
Rafa had little trouble with his good friend and compatriot, the retiring David Ferrer. Nadal rolled to a straight set victory 3 and 3, and seemed to have more trouble dealing with the emotions involved in his win rather than dealing with his game, and that’s a good sign for the man from Mallorca. He’ll face Germany’s surprising Jan-Lennard Struff, a winner over the tiring Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. As hard as it is to believe, this will be the first match between the 32-year-old Nadal and the 28-year-old Struff. I say that because their careers have overlapped the past ten years, yet somehow they’ve avoided a clash. This will be the first, and I think Struff will hope that it will be the last, as I think the German is going to have severe problems with Nadal’s style of high bouncing topspin shots and relentless pursuit. Struff is tough, but not tough enough to survive this one.

Dominic Thiem over Guido Pella
These guys have split the four matches they’ve played, but Thiem won the two most recent matches, and has emerged as the second best clay courter in the world. Pella is one tough cookie, and I believe that he will give world No. 5 the fight of his life. Yet Thiem seems to be peaking at just the right time, as he played some of his best tennis in his win over Jaume Munar, who himself has become a real threat. Thiem disposed of Munar fairly easily 7-5, 6-1 in very impressive fashion that portends good things to come for him. Although Pella beat Benoit Paire in straight sets, I think Thiem will be too tough for the Argentinean.

Kei Nishikori over Roberto Carballes Baena
Nishikori has had a really nice week, not only beating both Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets, but also by playing some of his best tennis seen in a while. Against FA2, Nishikori hugged the baseline and caught almost all the balls on the rise, depriving the Canadian of much needed time to hit his shots. Nishikori was simply brilliant in that second match just outclassing FA2 6-1, 6-3. Roberto Carballes Baena earned his spot in the quarters by surprising Cristian Garin 7-5, 6-2. But if Nishikori plays the way he did in the past two rounds, this won’t be close. I think the man from Japan will send the Spanish fans home disappointed, as their homeboy will go down.

Daniil Medvedev over Nicolas Jarry
What a surprise Nicolas Jarry has been this week. The 6’6” Chilean has recorded three great wins here, over Spaniard Marcel Granollers 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, third ranked Sascha Zverev 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 7-6. Three wins that his grandfather, Jamie Fillol, a former Tour player and University of Miami All-American himself, would be very proud of. But when you win two matches in third set tiebreakers there is a bit of luck involved, and I think Jarry’s luck has run out. Medvedev is solid as a rock on the court, and not prone to losing a close match in a tiebreaker. Sure, he always has a clunker in him, as all players do, but I don’t think it’s coming here. The Russian smells blood, and he’s ready for the kill. Put your money on 14th ranked Medvedev in this one.

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