PARIS: Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic will set up a French Open semifinals blockbuster if they get through their last-eight clashes on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) after rain caused their scheduled clashes to be cancelled Tuesday.
World No.1 Andy Murray faces Kei Nishikori while 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka takes on Marin Cilic.
Djokovic the master of Thiem
Novak Djokovic hopes his fledgling partnership Andre Agassi can inspire the Serb back to his very best. Agassi has left Paris already, but the defending champion is firmly in the hunt for a 13th Grand Slam title. Aside from a third-round wobble against Diego Schwartzman, it’s largely been plain sailing for Djokovic to this stage. Dominic Thiem remains the only player to beat Rafael Nadal on clay this season, but the Austrian’s shock win at the Rome Masters was swiftly followed by a 6-1, 6-0 humiliation against Djokovic. The 30-year-old has dropped just one set in five meetings with Thiem and brushed aside the Austrian with ease in last year’s Roland Garros semifinals. Thiem has motored through the first four rounds to reach just his second Grand Slam quarterfinals, but the challenge is about to get much tougher for one of the game’s rising stars.
Nadal takes on Spanish pal
Rafael Nadal has dropped just 20 games in four rounds at Roland Garros as he inches smoothly towards a 10th title. The 31-year-old Spaniard faces compatriot and close friend Pablo Carreno Busta, the 20th seed, who has never made it this far at a Slam in his career. Nadal is in a record-equalling 11th quarterfinals at Roland Garros and 31st at all the majors. Carreno Busta downed fifth seed Milos Raonic on a seventh match point in the last-16. Nadal has won all three meetings with 25-year-old Carreno Busta, two of which came on clay in Rio in 2015 and 2016.
Thanks for the memories as Murray faces Nishikori
Murray, runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2016, takes on Japanese eighth seed Nishikori, boasting a formidable record of eight wins against just two defeats. Murray won their only meeting on clay in straight sets in Madrid in 2015. After stuttering starts in Paris, not helped by a lingering fever, the 30-year-old was impressive in straight sets wins over Juan Martin del Potro and Karen Khachanov, ending the Russian’s serving streak of 48 games held in the process. Nishikori knocked Murray out of the US Open in a five-set quarterfinals last year but insisted he couldn’t remember it. Nishikori, bidding to make the semi-finals for the first time, has endured a topsy-turvy French Open, needing five sets to beat Hyeon Chung and four against Fernando Verdasco. In both matches, he suffered 6-0 ‘bagels’. He is playing in a seventh quarterfinals at the majors, a record for a Japanese man. No stranger to clay-court success with back-to-back titles in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015.
Wawrinka kryptonite to confident Cilic
Marin Cilic has scarcely been tested in reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the first time, but he’s rarely fared well against Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss star, crowned French Open champion two years ago, heads into their latest showdown on a seven-match winning streak against the Croat. Wawrinka has prevailed all five times they’ve played on clay, including a 2008 clash in Paris. The third seed hasn’t dropped a set either in making the last eight for the third straight year and is full of confidence after arriving in the French capital fresh off his first title of the season in Geneva. Cilic’s US Open triumph in 2014 is one of just five Grand Slam tournaments since the 2005 Australian Open not won by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. Wawrinka accounts for three of the other four along with Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 victory in New York. Cilic also downed Milos Raonic to claim last month’s Istanbul Open, just the second clay-court title of his career.