On a particularly pleasant summer’s eve at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both won their quarterfinal matches in straight sets, setting up a highly anticipated Saturday semifinal showdown.
Djokovic played a near flawless match against the No. 9 player in the world, Richard Gasquet, needing only 51 minutes to complete a 6-1, 6-2 performance. His dominance of a player of Gasquet’s caliber indicates that Djokovic is “in the zone” heading into the weekend.
The Serb only has one Slam—the Australian—to his name this year, but he has played at an extremely high level at each major. He came very close to dethroning Nadal at the French Open this year, only capitulating after an epic five-set classic.
Nadal looked a bit rusty in his quarterfinal contest against the No. 74 player in the world, Marinko Matosevic of Australia. He seemed to have some problems with his service timing, and he uncharacteristically double-faulted three times in the opening set.
Bosnian-born Matosevic is not a household tennis name, but he ended 2012 as the highest-ranked Australian men’s singles player and was voted “Most Improved Player” on the ATP World Tour last November. He played Nadal for the first time on the clay courts at Monte Carlo earlier this year, losing 6-1, 6-2.
Matosevic doubled his game total this time around on the hard courts, falling 6-2, 6-4. He played several good points and showed off some power on his forehand. Over the course of a full match, however, his groundstrokes were no match for Nadal’s.
Nadal mercilessly attacked Matosevic's backhand and, like so many other right-handed players, the Australian proved unable to handle the onslaught of lefty spin.
Matosevic found his groove a little more in the second set, but he could not string together enough points to threaten Nadal. Twice in the second set he double-faulted on crucial points—fatal mistakes against the 12-time Grand Slam champion.
Nadal will have to serve much better to compete with Djokovic in tomorrow’s semifinal. His spin is somewhat neutralized on the hard court, and Djokovic appears to be peaking.