Two of our sports' greatest competitors will face off for the 32nd and quite possibly final time Thursday in Barcelona. Nadal owns a 25-6 record over Ferrer, who is set to retire after the Mutua Madrid Open in early May. If it weren’t for Nadal, you could argue that Ferrer should have a French Open title or two to his name. Nadal has beaten Ferrer four times at the French Open alone, all in the quarterfinal round or later.
Anytime Nadal struggles on clay it is natural to overreact, but this may be the worst Nadal has looked on the surface in his career. After losing to Fabio Fognini in convincing fashion in Monte Carlo, Nadal squeaked by Argentinian Leonardo Mayer in three sets. He even admitted his match against Fognini was his “worst clay court match in fourteen years.”
Ferrer, on the other hand, enters this matchup in fine form, having dispatched both Mischa Zverev and Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-1 earlier this week. Both players put forth maximum effort each time they step onto the court. Do not be surprised to see Ferrer play the match of his life and push Nadal to the brink. This is a match that tennis fans should not miss.
There are plenty of exciting matchups in the Stuttgart Round of 16: Osaka vs Hsieh, Azarenka vs Pliskova, and Kerber vs Petkovic, to name a few. While all these matches should be fun, Bencic vs Bertens has the potential to be the best. These are two of the most gifted players on tour, but their games could not be more different.
Bertens is one of the more physically imposing players on the WTA tour. She hits every shot with brutal force and speed, and moves extraordinarily well for her size. Bencic, on the other hand, uses her opponents' pace against them, employing Martina Hingis-like racquet skills to redirect shots with sharp angles. Bencic is also an exceptional finisher at the net, while Bertens prefers to stay back and rip her heavy groundstrokes.
These two have never played on clay before, but the slower surface should favor Bertens. Look for the Dutchwoman to prevail in three tough sets in a fantastic clash of styles.