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Madrid Open Friday Preview: Rafael Nadal and Petra Kvitova look to extehnd their winning run on the clay.

On Friday in Madrid, we’ll have the Men’s quarter-finals and the Women’s Semifinals. On the Men’s side, the Rafael Nadal steamroll continues, but there’s several big hitting and big serving challengers remaining in the draw. On the Women’s side, out of an open draw emerge a few new favorites for Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem

It was 51 weeks ago when Thiem defeated Nadal in Rome, the last time anyone won a match, or even took a set, against the king of clay. But Nadal has somehow upped his clay level to new heights this year, putting even more distance between himself and every other player on the tour. By contrast, Thiem is not as strong a clay player as he was last year, especially coming off an ankle injury in March. He barely survived his last two rounds in Madrid in tight third sets, so his game does not appear to be in a place to challenge Nadal. That being said, Thiem is a big-hitting player who will go for his shots regardless of his form. If he gets hot on Friday, he’s the type of player that can overcome Nadal. While that seems unlikely, I do think we’ll get a closer match than the two had a few weeks ago in Monte Carlo, where Rafa dropped just two games.

Karolina Pliskova vs. Petra Kvitova

Both of these big-hitting Czech players come into this semifinal with a lot of confidence. Both recently won clay court titles: Pliskova in Stuttgart, Kvitova in Prague. Both are also on impressive clay court winning streaks of nine straight matches. Is one of these former French Open semifinalists ready to go all the way in Paris? Certainly the higher altitude in Madrid helps their games, but they’ve both proven their clay court prowess. Surprisingly, they’ve only faced each other twice before. Kvitova won both meetings, but they haven’t played in over three years. I’m sure both players still know plenty about each other’s games. Not only have they been Fed Cup teammates for some time, but the infamous Czech coaching carousel must lead to information about each player being leaked as coaches move from pupil to pupil. Based on current form, the winner of this match becomes the top contender for the Roland Garros title.



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