As the Madrid Open progresses and the herd thins, the seeded players usually face off. Novak Djokovic vs Kei Nishikori is a clash that has a lot of pride on the line. With Murray beaten by Borna Coric, Djokovic and Nishikori are the only two representatives of the ATP top 8 in the quarters of the Madrid open, as Rafael Nadal is yet to complete his match and Roger Federer is not playing.
Defending champion and No.2 seed Djokovic has faced a lot of criticism this season after a relatively abysmal run which started as the 2016 season neared conclusion. A run that saw him lose the No.1 ranking to Murray. In the opening round itself, Almagro made Djokovic sweat and only a heroic third set could salvage pride for Djokovic. The Serb found his feet in the pre-quarters though, and overcame another Spaniard in Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 7-5.
Nishikori also hasn’t been in his stride this season and dropped to No.8 from a career best No.5 which he achieved last season. The Japanese has managed to play just one final this season, in the Argentina Open, and was sent packing in the Quarters or lower in all other tournaments. Although, it was a determined Nishikori that beat the crowd favourite Spaniard David Ferrer, in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. Nishikori too, had a close shave in the opening round against the Argentine Diego Schwartzman, ranked No.40 on the ATP rankings.
The head-to-head is tipped heavily in favour of Djokovic with a 11-2 record over Nishikori. Also, Djokovic has come out on top in all their meetings on clay. Their previous meeting was on hard court in the semi finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in 2016, where Djokovic decimated the Japanese with a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
If Djokovic wants a revival of his somewhat lost stature, Nishikori is fighting for a place in the coveted ATP World Tour Finals. With the stakes high, the match promises to be an intriguing contest.