Eight men now remain in the Olympic singles tournament, and all from different countries: Argentina, France, Great Britain, Japan, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, and United States. At the end of the day, tomorrow, only four will remain and fight to bring Olympic glory home.
Along the way, only two big surprises came along, the first one happening at the very beginning, and the second, today, more of a surprise as the player on the losing end had come into this Olympic tournament in great shape and having lost only one match on grass.
A stunning defeat
For Kei Nishikori defeated David Ferrer to reach the quarter-finals.
The Spaniard’s defeat is very surprising, indeed, but what astonishes the most is the scoreline, as Nishikori shocked everyone, most of whom had to follow the match via live scores, by inflicting Ferrer a rare bagel in the first set.
Ferrer seemed to recuperate after that, breaking Nishikori in his very first service game of the second set, and if he lost that break advantage a few games later, it was to take it back right away, and not to let go of it, forcing a third and decisive set.
The games were then tightly disputed, each man holding on to his serve and, at the same time, racing against the rapidly fading light. When David Ferrer saved a couple of break points to hold for 4-4, it was 8:45 local and we all wondered if they would suspend the match to complete it tomorrow. Quite unexpectedly, they went on.
At 5-4, however, the match was stopped, but not to be finished tomorrow: it was moved to Centre Court to be completed so every round-of-16 match would be completed today.
First of all, it is a really astonishing decision to change courts at such a moment in the match, not because it was the third set, but because it was not in an even number of games, as they do when they suspend a match for darkness. Moreover, the change of courts brought a whole other problem: that of the adaptation to whole other conditions, moving from an outdoor court to an indoor one.
Doing so at 5-4* in the decisive set put the server completely on the edge, as he not only had to serve to stay in the match, he also had to do so in whole other conditions than those in which he played the whole time before.
In this case, it was David Ferrer who ended up trying to stay in the Games that way. And he ended up broken at 15 in a flurry of errors, his hopes of a singles medal vanishing as Kei Nishikori took the game, and the match, 6-0 3-6 6-4.
Classy as always, Ferrer refused afterwards to blame the change for the loss: “Nishikori was better and looking for an excuse would be lame.”
It remains a shocking first set, and a very surprising loss, for the World no 5, who had not lost before the quarter-finals of a tournament since Monte Carlo, and a great win for the young Japanese.
Tomorrow’s quarter-finals promise to be gripping, at least on paper, and the format leads to believe that there may be a surprise or two who will be among the four to fight for medals.
- Roger Federer (1) vs John Isner (10): Roger Federer has won their last meeting, in the Indian Wells finals, in straight sets, and leads the head-to-head 3-1. However, they have never played on grass, and Isner has proven that, in best-of-three matches on the surface, he is quite a tough opponent.
- Juan Martín del Potro (8) vs Kei Nishikori (15): They faced on grass last month, in the third round of Wimbledon, a quite convincing straight-set win in favour of the Argentine, who has never lost a match against the Japanese in three meetings. How tired will Nishikori be from his late finish, and how confident following his big upset? Del Potro, for his part, will have to come all guns blazing, and make sure to avoid a concentration drop such as he’s had against Gilles Simon today, and that he’s wont to have.
- Novak Djokovic (2) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5): I don’t think many have forgotten the last time they met, in the quarter-finals of the French Open, when Tsonga squandered match points and ended up losing the fourth set, and the match, 1-6 in the final set. Coming out of this marathon match against Milos Raonic, he made short work of Feliciano López today, winning in straight sets. As for Djokovic, he was made to work against Lleyton Hewitt, who really did not give him the match, although he came really short in the decisive set. The head-to-head (6-5) and the odds favour the Serbian for this one, but I would not rule out a surprise win, if Tsonga keeps his wits together and has some gas left in the tank.
- Andy Murray (3) vs Nicolás Almagro (11): The two haven’t met since Indian Wells, in 2010, and have never faced on grass in three previous meetings. However, it is obvious from the opposition faced since the beginning of the tournament and their recent performances on grass that the Brit starts as the heavy favourite for this match. However, Almagro should not be underestimated, especially if he comes out as full of confidence as we have seen him lately.
Who will be in the semi-finals? It’s time to make your picks!