Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal do battle in the Mutual Madrid Open for the championship of this Masters 1000 tournament.
Kei, based on his success in the tournament will move up from his world #12 ranking to inside the top 10 regardless of how he fares today. He also makes further history in representing Japanese tennis players in the rankings. 62% lifetimes wins, 5 career titles. Under fellow countrymen Michael Chang’s tutelage, he’s already won two titles and got as far as the 4th round in the Aussie Open (taking on Nadal, no less). This is his first ATP Masters 1000 final, in a year that’s, percentage, his best of 8 years on the tour.
Enough’s been written about Nadal and his accomplishments, especially that of his success on clay. He reached the final of this year’s Aussie Open. He’s in his 3rd reign as the world’s best player, achieving the rank last July. He added wins in Doha, Rio on the ATP tour this year.
Comparing career numbers, Rafa has a clean sweep of all major stats. Kei does have a slightly better record in finals, 71% to 69% wins, along with a 76 to 70% edge in deciding sets.
In the head-to-head, its’ all Nadal, winning all 6 matches, dropping just 1 set. Kei, at his peak, might be able to compete a bit, but, I can’t even confidently point to one variable where may consistently have an edge. Normally in a final with two great players there are things the somewhat weaker player can attack. Here, in this final, Nadal is fully dominant. But, you know, watching Kei exercise his all-around play, playing at the top of his game lately, he’ll need to continue to ride that wave .
Let’s move onto the cycles, Nadal first:
Rafael on the cooldown, physical (it’s my new phrase, ‘on the cooldown”), but the heart is there, the mental game is strong. He won’t be as tenacious as in prior matches in the tournament. He might execute well but he won’t deliver as well or counterpunch consistently.
Now for Nishikori:
A tougher tournament overall for Kei…who’s only now starting to come out of a triple low. He did, indeed drop one set in his last 3 matches and gone to tiebreak in 3 that he won. Nothing at easy at all. I’d say in general he’s got a tougher uphill battle than Rafa.
Neither player is at their best today, but Rafa’s got stats and history, plus home crowd on his side. I think Rafa wins the first, Kei will make it very interesting in the 2nd set but I can’t see this quite going to a 3rd.
Rafa in straight sets for the win.