Madrid Friday Previews: Halep vs Bencic; Federer vs Thiem

Madrid Friday Previews: Halep vs Bencic; Federer vs Thiem

Federer’s return to the clay has been impressive, even for his lofty standards.

Simona Halep (WTA No. 3, UTR No. 13) vs Belinda Bencic (WTA No. 18, UTR No. 15)

Simona Halep has been on fire in Madrid, showing no signs of the minor hip injury that forced her to pull out of Stuttgart last month. In the round of 16, she captured the elusive double bagel over Viktoria Kuzmova, and then followed up with a straight-set victory against Ashleigh Barty in the quarterfinal.

Halep will now face off against Belinda Bencic, a talented and tricky opponent who ousted world No. 1 Naomi Osaka on Thursday. But with Halep playing like this, it might not even matter who is on the other side of the net. The Romanian's movement has been exceptional all week. She will be aiming to smother Bencic from the beginning, crushing groundstrokes and using her unparalleled speed to shrink the court. 

For Bencic to make this a match, she will need to dictate the points and play on her terms, otherwise Halep will crush any weak reply and then it’s off to the races for the young Swiss star.

Look for Halep to notch her fifth consecutive straight-set win and secure her spot in the championship match.If she wins the title, she'll regain the No. 1 ranking from Naomi Osaka.

Roger Federer (ATP No. 3, UTR No. 3) vs Dominic Thiem (ATP No. 5, UTR No. 7)

Federer’s return to the clay has been impressive, even for his lofty standards. He squeaked by the talented Gael Monfils on Wednesday, saving two match points in the process. But now he has a very tall order against clay-court juggernaut Dominic Thiem.

Federer has been exploring some new tactics on clay, mixing in the surprise serve and volley as well as his patented drop-shot return. This is exactly what he will need to do against Thiem in order to avoid extended, physical rallies. The shorter the point, the better for Federer; but that is easier said than done on this surface. Thiem will look to do what he does best, which is bludgeoning heavy groundstrokes from corner to corner to slowly but surely wear down Federer’s legs.

The Austrian owns a 3-2 head-to-head advantage over the Swiss Maestro, one of just a handful of players that has a winning record over Federer. Look for him to extend that margin and march into the semifinal in Madrid.