Del Potro faces the No.3 seed Nadal in an appetising match up for many tennis aficionados to get their teeth in on semi-finals day for the Men’s singles tournament. Some may argue that they feared we would never see another encounter between Del Potro and Nadal, considering the injury woes that have taken over their respective careers in recent memory.
After three wrist operations, Del Potro is hoping that the dark days are behind him as he looks to start the second part of his career. Nadal, who had not played since Roland Garros, also had a severe wrist problem that forced him to withdraw from the most important tournament of the year for the Spaniard.
Nadal leads the head-to-head 8-4, but it is tied at 4-4 on hard courts between the pair. If you look into the most recent match ups, Del Potro prevailed on a very fast hard court in the Shanghai Masters in their last match in 2013. When the two players met in Indian Wells of the same year, Nadal came out on top, which plays very slow and can be likened to the conditions of the court in Rio this week.
The two key areas to this match up is whether Del Potro’s backhand holds up under forensic scrutiny and whether Nadal’s forehand resurfaces to become the weapon it used to be when he was in his prime. In recent matches, Nadal tends to lean towards his forehand when defending, as he defends much better when applying the two-hander on his backhand wing.
The court favours Nadal slightly, but what we have the seen from the tall Argentinian so far is that his forehand can penetrate through even the slowest of hard courts. Can the returning Del Potro blast through the Nadal defence?
Nadal has the edge over Del Potro in this semi-final and I think he will win in three sets.
Prediction: Nadal in 3 sets.
Kei Nishikori  vs Andy Murray  H2H: Murray leads 6-1
Murray and Nishikori reacquaint themselves in the grandest of stages as they prepare for another epic contest at the semi-finals of the Olympics. Despite both players solidifying themselves as regular Top 10 players, this match up has rarely dealt us classics – the major exception being the Davis Cup classic played in the indoor courts of Birmingham earlier this year.
Murray has won 10 of 12 ATP sets against the Japanese No.1, with his only loss coming at the World Tour Finals in 2014. In that particular match, Murray was physically and mentally drained due to the amount of tennis he had played in the build up to the World Tour Finals in London.
Nishikori takes the ball on the rise and takes time away from his opponents. The one major liability in the Japanese player’s game is that he does not have the luxury of a serve that can get him free points. The burden of having an attackable serve intensifies when he comes up against a returner as good as Andy Murray.
Nishikori finished his quarter-final match a lot later than Murray, so it will be a tough turnaround for the No. 4 seed.
Murray has struggled considerably in his last two matches at the Rio Games, but I think he has the winning formula in this particular match up. The defending Olympic champion should squeak through this semi-final in a tough three set battle.
Prediction: Murray in 3 sets.
Murray and Nishikori are scheduled at 12pm (4pm BST) and Del Potro v Nadal is scheduled not before 2pm (6pm BST).
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