David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal are each two matches away from setting up a blockbuster final in Acapulco.
The other two seeded players remaining are Vina Del Mar champ, Horacio Zeballos, and the third ranked Spanish player, Nicolas Almagro. Fourth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, fifth seed Jurgen Melzer, sixth Seed Thomaz Bellucci and seventh Seed Benoit Parire were all eliminated in the opening round.
Surprise quarterfinalists Fabio Fognini and Santiago Giraldo will be squaring off for a wonderful opportunity to reach the semifinal of an ATP 500 level event.
The top four seeds have all shown gritty resistance failing to concede a single set through the first two rounds.
David Ferrer v. Paolo Lorenzi- The last time these two met, Ferrer won 3 and 0. This was on an outdoor hard court. Now that Lorenzi has to face Ferrer on clay, it doesn't seem like things can get much better for the Italian. Lorenzi loves the clay, but as a player who utilizes a defensive, spin reliant game plan, he'll likely be able to obtain very little traction against the tour's ultimate grinder.
Keys for Lorenzi: Whatever offensive aptitude Lorenzi has, he's going to have to execute it to perfection. The Italian has a very little chance to win even if he plays stellar offense, but his chances of winning are virtually nil if he tries to beat Ferrer integrating his typical playing style. As Ferrer represented against Wayne Odesnik, his return of serve is in tip top shape. Lorenzi needs to unload as frequently as he can on both his first and second serves.
Keys for Ferrer: Lorenzi has an extremely elongated forehand motion and implements what is almost a full western forehand. For Ferrer, this means he'll be able to exploit Lorenzi's forehand by taking the ball early thus rushing the Italian and by keep Lorenzi low making it difficult for him to get under the ball and generate the quantity of topspin he is accustomed to hitting. Besides this, if Ferrer plays his usual game, it should be lights out fast.
Prediction: Ferrer to take out Lorenzi in straights sets giving up less than four games in the process.
Fabio Fognini v. Santiago Giraldo- Fognini and Giraldo are level at one in tour level matches with the Italian claiming the sole victory on clay in the 2011 edition of Kitzbuhel. Fognini and Lorenzi have each won a three setter rallying from a set down against Bedene and Ramirez-Hidalgo respectively. Fognini is generally a flatter hitter but relative to the Colombian, he might as well be Nadal. Santiago Giraldo is arguably the flattest hitter on the ATP Tour. Every shot is bludgeon that has the racket ferociously sweeping straight across his body. Giraldo is 39-39 in tour matches played on clay, so its safe to say he has done well on a surface that yells at him to play with heightened spin and reduced risk.
Keys for Fognini: The second serve for Fognini is arguably the most critical factor of this matchup. Giraldo is well known for his immunity to fear as he does not shy away from taking colossal cuts off second serve returns as beautifully visualized in this video. At times, Fognini will likely just have to weather the storm because when Girlado gets hot, there's not much an opponent can do except wait it out.
Keys for Giraldo: Like a Lukas Rosol or a Jerzy Janowicz, the concept of percentage tennis is obsolete to Giraldo. Terms and phrases such as high risk, low margin, super flat hitting, low net clearance, low percentage, etc. all come to mind when describing these players who are inclined to take as many chances as possible regardless of how absurd they may be. Thus, for Girlado, it'll be paramount that he enters a mindset where being risk adverse is acceptable. On a surface where matches are primarily won through consistently intelligent shot selection and rational point construction as opposed to closing your eyes and arbitrarily pummeling the ball, Giraldo needs make sure he is not out of control especially against a guy like Fognini who can drive opponents nuts.
Prediction: Fognini has had the more impressive road to the quarters and I think he'll be able to quell the volatility of Giraldo in straight sets.
Nicolas Almagro v. Horacio Zeballos- Last week in Buenos Aires, Nicolas Almagro was dislodged by Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals—a match in which the Swiss outplayed the Spaniard from start to finish. Almagro's final obstacle to a likely semifinal collision with Rafael Nadal is another one hander, Horacio Zeballos. Zeballos, as will be remembered for quite some time, shocked the tennis populous by taking out Rafael Nadal in the Vina Del Mar final. Zeballos lost two consecutive matches after beating Rafa but seems to be back on track this week in Acapulco. Zeballos and Alamagro both possess extremely potent one-handed backhands that can be ripped with topspin and flattened out with equal flair. Pound for pound, Almagro is definitely the bigger hitter but Zeballos can put forth his fair share of power. It should be noted that these two have never faced each other.
Keys for Almagro: Almagro is going to look to maximize the backhand to backhand exchanges throughout the match as it is an inherently wise proposition because it is taking his backhand, one of the best in all of tennis, into the weaker side of Zeballos. In addition, Zeballos loves to run around his backhand so if Almagro is hitting with reasonable depth and is able to keep the ball out of the center of the court, Zeballos will be running himself into losing positions. Almagro will also have to make sure he doesn't give the Argentinean time to run around his backhand on the second serve. By doing this, he is better able to grasp jurisdiction over the point.
Keys for Zeballos: Very much like he did against Nadal, it'll be key for Zeballos to stay patient and really construct opportunities to be aggressive. He doesn't have the skill to be offensive from defensive positions as Almagro does, so Zeballos will have to look to push Almagro back and then strike with his forehand. Zeballos served incredibly effectively against Nadal where he hit 12 aces and won 77 percent of his first serve points. Of course, me saying that Zeballos needs to serve well is abundantly obvious, but against a player on slower surface who can crack return, the vitality of the first serve increases.
Prediction: Almagro to take out Zeballos in three sets to set up a semifinal match with Rafa
Rafael Nadal v. Leonardo Mayer- Not much to write here. Rafa leads the head to head in this matchup 1-0 with the only victory coming in 2011 in Indian Wells.
Keys for Nadal: Mayer has a very, very lengthy swing path which Rafa will surely exploit by stepping in and taking the ball early. Mayer can pack a strong punch when given time and the opportunity to move forward on his groundstrokes thus Rafa will need to keep Mayer pinned behind the baseline. The obvious pattern in this match, as is always the case when Rafa plays a right hander that has a one-handed backhand, is to break it down from the onset by targeting it with topspin.
Keys for Mayer: If I'm Mayer, I'm looking to implement a pattern of play usually associated with the serve that you'll hear Brad Gilbert call V-serving. It involves serving out wide on either the ad court or the deuce court then taking the return and going cross court. For Mayer, I'd specifically be doing this on the deuce side. He'll be able to attack Rafa's backhand, draw a weaker reply than what would be seen off the forehand, and then go hard and flat into Rafa's forehand.
Prediction: Rafa to take out Mayer in straight sets.