Fabio Fognini v Rafael Nadal
Winning the Monte Carlo Masters, a tournament that had all of the top names in action, has to be a big boost for Rafael Nadal as he tries to reclaim his place at the top of men’s tennis. Backing up that win by winning in Barcelona will have many believing he can win another French Open next month, but Nadal looks to be too big a favourite in this one.
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Recent matches with Fabio Fognini have been far from easy for Nadal and the Italian has been in decent nick after dropping the first set to Mikhail Youzhny. Since dropping that set, Fognini has won all four sets he has played and has dropped just six games which suggests he is over the injury that saw him miss both Indian Wells and Miami.
Fognini also lost heavily to Paolo Lorenzi in Monte Carlo, but the wins this week will have given him some confidence. The Italian also seems to love playing Nadal in recent matches and he did beat him twice on the clay last season, although Fognini was beaten in another match.
There is no doubt that Fognini can be hard to trust at times when he loses focus and clearly starts tanking games and sets, but I think he relishes playing Nadal. That should fuel his motivation and this looks a lot of games for Fognini to be receiving in this one and I will back him to keep the match competitive, although I expect Nadal to find his way to the Semi Final.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Fabio Fognini +5.5 Games @ 1.86 with UNIBET
Philipp Kohlschreiber v Andrey Kuznetsov
Having already beaten Andrey Kuznetsov in two previous matches in Barcelona, I am looking for Philipp Kohlschreiber to make it a hat-trick in the final Quarter Final of the day. The German should still be the better clay court player of the two even if he looks to be slipping a little these days and I like Kohlschreiber’s chances of moving into the Semi Final.
Both players have had impressive wins this week, but my feeling is that Kohlschreiber has definitely had the tougher tests that he has dealt with. As much as I have to respect Kuznetsov for beating the likes of Stan Wawrinka this season, the Russian is a player that has yet to really have a lot of success on the clay courts at this level.
Without the pace in the court, I think Kuznetsov is more susceptible to making a few errors while his serve is not the biggest on the Tour and can be attacked on the clay. Someone like Kohlschreiber should be able to have success on the return and he will be tough to knock off if he is serving well which is a shot that is a little more erratic these days.
Even so, Kohlschreiber’s best moments in the last couple of years have come on the clay courts and I think he will be able to fashion more of the break point chances. After a tight first set I can see Kohlschreiber work through for a 76, 64 win in this one.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Philipp Kohlschreiber -2.5 Games @ 1.91 with Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage
Prices correct at time of writing.