The quarter-final stage of the Internazionali BNL D'Italia didn't disappoint, and here's a recap of the action, along with some predictions for tomorrow's semi-finals:
Having booked his place in a 4th Masters 1000 quarter-final of 2014, big-serving Raonic was looking to make the last four for the first time. Carrying a perfect 4-0 record into his tie with Jeremy Chardy, the Canadian put in an established performance, leading by a set and a break, before capitulating at the end of the second, allowing the Frenchman to force a deciding set. Raonic regrouped, though, and took the final set 6-2, setting up a semi-final date with Novak Djokovic, continuing to prove his all-court credentials in the process. Chardy, in the meantime, will be heartened by his run this week ahead of his home Grand Slam again in just a week and a half.
On Dimitrov's 23rd birthday, he was gifted an unlikely birthday present by Tommy Haas, the German veteran sadly retiring after losing the first set 6-2. In what was billed to be a potential shot-making bonanza, Tommy's shoulder let him down and he was forced to pull out after barely getting into the opening set. Dimitrov won't be complaining too much though, with his first Masters 1000 semi-final to look forward to, he joins fellow young charge Raonic in the last four.
The 17th meeting between the two warriors that are David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic certainly didn't disappoint. This was clay court tennis at his best, a mixture of unthinkable groundstrokes, net exchanges and attrition, with both guys putting everything on the table in an attempt to progress to the semi-finals. A win for Ferrer would have guaranteed him a top four seeding at Roland Garros, but after battling back again and again, he was unable to topple the world number 2, who appears to have put his wrist injuries well and truly behind him. This one was a real classic.
Rafa's clay court form has been an absolute anomaly in 2014, but for all the talk of him lacking confidence, here he is in the semi finals of another Masters 1000, having taken home the trophy last week. For the 4th clay court match in a row, Nadal dropped a set, the first time this has ever happened in his professional career, but nobody was all that surprised when Murray, who carried solid form into this clash, took the first set. Needless to say, we were even less shocked when Rafa forged a break at the beginning of the second set and came back to secure a tight victory in another vintage clay court war of attrition. Having led 4-2 in the deciding set, the Scot will be devastated not to be coming back to the Foro D'Italia tomorrow night for a semi-final clash with Grigor Dimitrov, but he can still take a lot from this week, having played one of the best clay court matches of his career, and arguably having his best tournament of the year to date.
Milos Raonic vs Novak Djokovic: Raonic will cause Djokovic some serious headaches tomorrow with his booming serve and ever-improving ground game, and I think he'll take a set against the Serb, but I don't think he's quite ready to defeat the top players on this surface just yet. Djokovic to win in three.
Rafael Nadal vs Grigor Dimitrov: Nadal has run something like ten kilometres already this week, while Dimitrov will be nicely rested having barely had to exert himself in his quarter-final clash with Haas. I think there will be three tight sets in this one, and the young Bulgarian certainly has a chance of reaching his first Masters 1000 final, but ultimately, my money is still on the King of Clay. Rafa in three.
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