Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori battle it out for a semi final place at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open on Friday, with another hot day in prospect at Indian Wells.
The temperature dial is set to reach 32C in the shade around midday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden today, so we should see the balls flying around when the players take to the court today.
We had no luck again yesterday in a David Goffin match, with this time the little Belgian somehow fending off 11 break points (four of which were set points) in the opening set against Marin Cilic in their quarter final.
That set was the key to the match and only Cilic will know how he didn’t win it – he was even ahead in the ensuing tie breaker.
Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori
At around 12:00 local time (19:00 UK) the first of today’s quarter finals will take place and it will be the ninth career meeting between the King of Clay and the former US Open finalist.
Of late this match-up has favoured Nishikori, with the Japanese star playing aggressive tennis and hitting through the defences of the Spaniard, who isn’t what he was in that department these days.
Injuries have taken their toll on Nadal and he really shouldn’t be at this stage of the tournament if it wasn’t for an epic choke from Alexander Zverev, who missed a sitter on match point to beat him a few days ago.
We had Zverev to win a set in that match, but he should have done more, having led 5-2 in the final set against the Spaniard, and it’s mainly reputation that’s getting Rafa through his matches these days.
He’s still very capable of beating Nishikori on his day of course, but Nadal has become very difficult to try and predict, such is the variance of his level at the moment.
If he leaves enough balls in mid-court today Nishikori could easily dish out another straight sets thrashing to Nadal, as he did in Canada last summer, but as ever with Kei there are doubts.
Nishikori did really well to overcome John Isner in three sets after losing the opener 1-6 and to win two straight breakers against Isner in these conditions in some feat.
But what will that have taken out of him physically, given his propensity for injury and retirements?
Conditions do suit Rafa’s game here, with the court taking his top spin and making it rear up off the surface, which may cause Nishikori some problems, and I expect we’ll see him looking to take the ball early and expose Nadal’s creaking defences.
Nishikori has had his problems at Indian Wells though and he was awful in the opening set against Isner, so I’m leaning towards a long shot wager in this one, rather than taking Nishikori at a price like 1.73.
Nadal has lost seven of his 10 matches when priced as a 2.0 to 2.2 underdog on hard and indoor hard courts at main level and five of his last six.
Nishikori fares better as a 1.70 to 1.90 favourite, with eight wins from his last nine matches in that price range, and one he lost was 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 to Milos Raonic.
He doesn’t tend to win many of them in straight sets though, with sets dropped in 10 of his last 12 matches in that slight favourite price range, so given also Nishikori’s stellar record in final sets I’m happy to chance the 2-1 to him here at 4.10.
Long shot: Back Nishikori to beat Nadal 2-1 at 4.10