Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE): ATP No. 8, UTR No. 13 (15.65)
Daniil Medvedev (RUS): ATP No. 14, UTR No. 5 (15.94)
This marquee matchup between two of the game’s brightest rising stars is exciting enough given their abilities and game styles. But it is even more exciting knowing the history between these two.
The two got into a heated exchange at the 2018 Miami Open, and some things were said that you just can’t take back.
Tsitsipas clearly wanted no part of the confrontation, despite being the instigator. Medvedev won the matchup in Miami and then defeated the young Greek on two separate occasions later on that year, at the US Open and in Basel. Medvedev owns their head-to-head 3-0, and the face-to-face confrontation 1-0. All three wins came on hard courts, Medvedev’s preferred surface.
On Thursday, they will face for the first time on clay. Tsitsipas not only has an all-court game, he has an all-surface game. Statistically speaking, Medvedev does not. His results on clay throughout his career have been sub-par, but this week in Monte Carlo he has lost just five games in two matches.
According to the Vegas oddsmakers, Tsitsipas is a slight favorite. However, Medvedev will have extra motivation competing against Tsitsipas, who might be his least favorite player on tour. Look for the Russian to dig deep and extend his head-to-head record to 4-0. Sometimes players just have your number, and I believe Medvedev will have it even on his least favorite surface.
Rafael Nadal (ESP): ATP No. 2, UTR No. 2 (16.21)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL): ATP No. 28, UTR No. 25 (15.48)
First things first: Roberto Bautista Agut is one of the very best players in the game. He rates as the tenth-best clay-court player in the world according to his UTR. On Wednesday, Nadal defeated the extremely capable and fit Bautista Agut, 6-1, 6-1. Nadal on clay is a marvel to behold.
So what is Dimitrov to do? Nadal feasts on everyone on the dirt, and especially players with one-handed backhands. The Spaniard owns an 11-1 head-to-head record over the Bulgarian and has never lost to him on clay.
Dimitrov will need to serve impeccably to stand any chance. He will also need to finish points at the net, a scary thought when Nadal lines up his patented banana-hook down-the-line passing shot. But there is no other way; you will not beat Nadal on clay with a one-handed backhand if you stand back and let him continue to elevate the ball out of your strike zone.
The favorite is clear, but every time Nadal steps onto clay, it is a must-see event. Good luck, Grigor