Welcome to the Quarter Finals. Just the one match at the moment stands out for me today, and it looks to be a really solid match with Marin Cilic and Rafael Nadal doing battle in the first match of the night session on Rod Laver.
Rafael Nadal vs Marin Cilic
Road to the Quarter Finals
The road to the Quarter Final has resulted in only one dropped set, however it certainly hasn’t felt that dominant overall. After dominant a clearly outmatched Estrella Burgo in round 1, Nadal certainly didn’t have it all his own way in his straight sets win over Leo Mayer in round 2. What saved Nadal was his ability to get his first serve into play, 73% of the time to be precise, however he did find himself broken serving for the match in the third set, ultimately getting over the line in a tiebreak. Damir Dzumhur was an absolute no-show in their third round encounter, with none of the Bosnian crowd able to find their way into the sold out Margaret Court Arena. Don’t get me wrong, Nadal was very impressive at times, however he really didn’t have much to beat on the night.
Then we ended up having what was one of the best matches of the first week, with Nadal coming up against the diminutive Schwartzman in what was an absolute grinding match. Nadal was only able to win 63% of points on his first serve and 61% of points on his second serve. Although Nadal was only broken 3 times, he did face a whopping 18 break points throughout the match, hitting 46 winners and 51 unforced errors. Schwartzman gave it his all, but it just wasn’t quite enough in the end, falling to Nadal 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-3 in 3 hours and 53 minutes.
After a bit of a scratchy start, where Cilic was a couple of points from a 5th set vs Pospisil, Cilic has been pretty solid overall against some high quality opponents that could have caused quite a bit of trouble in the end. After escaping Pospisil, Cilic was clinical against Joao Sousa, losing only 5 points on serve on his way to a 6-1 7-5 6-2 victory. From there, the confidence improved further with a straight sets win over Ryan Harrison 7-6 6-3 7-6, only dropping serve once throughout the match. Cilic certainly didn’t have it all his own way with the 4th round, when Carreno Busta actually served for a 2 sets to 1 advantage and 30/15, before reeling off 12 consecutive points from juice to not only take the third set TB 7-0, but break early in the 4th set too. Cilic did concede a break back, but managed to get over the line with another commanding tiebreak.
The Match Up
Quite an interesting matchup, however on paper things aren’t as close as they appear in real life. Nadal leads the head to head 5-1, with Cilic’s win coming in 2009, however I want to take you back to their meeting late last year, as I saw something that day that really stood out, and when you combine it with their form this week and consider Nadal coming back from injury, it really makes a value play on Cilic pretty appealing I must say.
Their match had a couple of very tight moments, and ultimately ended with Nadal getting the job done 7-5 7-6, but in no way has that match instilled me with any confidence to go ahead and take the short price on offer today for Nadal. At times of late Nadal has been leaving his forehand a tad short in the court, and if he goes ahead and does the same today, he is going to be in for a world of hurt against Marin Cilic. Cilic is no stranger to the big stage. He has won the US Open, he has beaten Roger Federer on the big stage, and he saves his best matches for when it matters. Occasionally Cilic can go into a lull of sorts in the early rounds. You never hear of a massively dominant performance, but at the same time rarely do you hear of a time where he really found himself in trouble or on “upset alert”. He is made for the big stage, and he has the power, movement and precision to cause a bit of grief here. If Nadal plays like he did against Schwartzman, he is going to be in for a torrid time tonight, that I can assure you. Cilic is a great player of the ball when it is up above the net, something he will benefit from with the heavy topspin of Nadal. He has been serving brilliantly, and if he can maintain a solid first serve percentage then I see no reasons as to why he cannot get the job done here.
While I was watching the Nadal vs Schwartzman match, an interesting graphic came across the screen displaying the Nadal was playing a tad safer with his shot selection and that he wasn’t quite being as assertive as usual. If Nadal brings that same level against Cilic, then we are in for another semi final appearance for the Croat.
If Nadal lifts his level after 4 matches of best of 5 tennis coming back from his injury, then so be it and i will tip my cap to him. When you considered the altered preparation, the fact that his output is a tad lower than previous AO’s from a physical perspective (as per interview Todd Woodbridge ran with one of the stats guys looking at energy expenditure) and the fact that he is playing one of the best big game players in the game at the moment, then I have to side with Cilic at the massive price to get the job done. I was expecting around $2.80 on form, so to get $4.47 is absolutely massive, and definitely warrants a 4 unit play in my book.
4 units Cilic to defeat Nadal at $4.47 at Pinnacle