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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns the ball during his match against Jeremy Chardy, of France, during the Madrid Open tennis tournament on May 9, 2019. 
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns the ball during his match against Jeremy Chardy, of France, during the Madrid Open tennis tournament on May 9, 2019. |Andrea Comas | Associated Press
Tennis

ATP Tennis Friday: Abrams picks Madrid Open’s Quarterfinals – Djokovic v Cilic, Federer v Thiem, Nadal v Wawrinka, and Tsitsipas v Zverev

Federer wants revenge

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Mutua Madrid Open
Madrid, Spain
Friday, May 10, 2019
Men’s quarterfinals

Novak Djokovic over Marin Cilic
Nole still looks like he’s beatable, but he’s not going down to Marin Cilic. Cilic gutted out a close 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Laslo Djere and has already outperformed what I expected from him in this event. Djokovic blew off Jeremy Chardy in straight sets for the 13th straight time and didn’t need all his resources to take this one. Ultimately, I think Djokovic’s easy draw will come back to haunt him, as he hasn’t been really pressed, and after he takes care of business with Cilic, he’s faces a difficult task in meeting the winner between Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer.

Roger Federer over Dominic Thiem
This is a monumental clash. Fourth seeded Roger Federer came through with a very, very tough win over the stunning Gael Monfils after he stared down two match points at 5-6 in the third. Federer started out blanking the Frenchman 6-0 in the first, and it looked like Monfils was going to get outclassed - but he used all of his athleticism to take the second set 6-4 and roll out to a 4-1 advantage in the third. At that point I went to the bathroom, and by the time I got back, Federer had evened the third at 4-4, and seemed to have the momentum. But Monfils hung tough, took a 6-5 lead and held two match points that Federer erased seemingly with ease. And when Federer held on to squeak by in a third set tiebreaker that he dominated; his greatness glowed in the soft light of Manolo Santana. Thiem, meanwhile, faced some stiff resistance from Fabio Fognini, but managed to get through in straight sets. So now, here we are, with a match that again, could be a changing of the guard. After all, Thiem holds a 3-2 record over Federer, and could be considered more of a clay court threat than The Fed. But Federer feasts on competition, and after losing to Thiem in Indian Wells, where he really should have won, I think Federer wants revenge. Yes, Thiem is 25 and Federer is 37, but this one’s for the ages, and ages don’t matter.

Rafa Nadal over Stan Wawrinka
In the bottom half of the draw Rafa Nadal has had very little competition from two of the very best of the NextGen stars. He rolled over both FA2, 3 and 3, and Frances Tiafoe 3 and 4, and seems ready to step up, knowing that in order to win this tournament that boasts Nole, The Fed, and Thiem, he’s got to play his best tennis. He’ll start today with this matchup against the other Swiss master, Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka seemed to be playing near his best in his straight set victory over Kei Nishikori, which I found to be surprising. Still, when Stan the Man plays at his peak he can, and does, beat everyone. The question here isn’t who’s better. The question is, who is playing better now. And for two guys who came into this tournament with question marks, it’s nice to see that they both seem to be peaking at about the same time. That should make for a very exciting, enticing display. I like the Spaniard. He’ll have the home fans screaming, and I think he’ll respond.

Stefanos Tsitsipas over Sascha Zverev
Could you have asked for a more entertaining pair-up than this? Both of these guys are streaky shot-makers, fan favorites, and the ultimate the sport has as entertainers. They have played twice, and split those matches, both last year, but that just shows how competitive they are. Zverev is favored, as he is the 3rd seed, and Tsitsipas is “only” ranked 9th in the world, at 20-years-old. But Zverev has looked slightly more vulnerable here, needing three sets to best qualifier Hubert Hurkacz, although Hurkacz will most likely not need to qualify for too many tournaments as he’s shown what a terrific player he has become. Both guys will hit winners, both guys will get their points and games, and I expect this one to go down to the very end of a close third set, but having to pick a winner, I’m going with the Greek God. However, no matter who wins, this one is “must-see” tennis for real fans, as we’ll be seeing these guys battle for another decade or so.