The two have played twelve times against each other in the past, with the Spaniard predictably dominating the head to head record 10-2. However, both wins for the Japanese came in their last five matches, which means their rivalry, which was pretty lopsided early on, has become a much closer affair in recent times.
However, due to injuries to both players, they have played only once in nearly three years, at last year’s Monte-Carlo Masters final.
So, reading too much into their head to head record does not make too much sense. Having said that, it is no secret that beating Nadal on clay, especially in the French Open, is one of the toughest jobs for any player in the modern game. Better and stronger players than Nishikori have bowed down before the king!
So, does Nishikori have any realistic chance of getting past the king on his own turf? Well, the answer is a guarded yes. But for that to happen, several things have to fall in place. Firstly, Nishikori has to play his best tennis, which has not been the case so far. He has stared at losses in both of his previous matches, against Benoit Paire and Laslo Djere, only to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
Secondly, and possibly, more importantly, Nadal’s level has to drop, not just a bit, but by several notches. Besides that third set blip against David Goffin, he has looked almost unstoppable in the tournament thus far.
His win over Djokovic at the Rome Masters final has given him that extra belief that seemed to be lacking in the early stages of the clay season this year.
So, without any disrespect to the Japanese’s talent and versatility, it can be safely said that it is Nadal who goes into this quarterfinal clash as the overwhelming favourite.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in Straight Sets