Unless Fabio Fognini is able to thwart two out of the top three Spanish players in the world, the Spanish control over Acapulco will continue. Since 2008, the only two players to have won this title are Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer.
The last three years have seen the Spanish campaign spearheaded by Ferrer who is looking to complete an incredible four-peat.
Rafael Nadal is slowly working his way back into the form that catapulted him to seven Roland Garros titles, but the king of clay is certainly more vulnerable on this surface than ever before.
For Nicolas Almagro, Acapulco presents itself as a wonderful opportunity to record his first win over either of his Spanish superiors.
The scorching temperatures and soaring humidity have been breathtaking—literally. In his quarterfinal match against Leonardo Mayer, not only was Rafa drenched in a river of sweat but he was breathing heavier than normal.
Luckily, all four men remaining won their quarterfinal matches in straight sets. In addition, these matches will be played as the afternoon transitions into the evening.
David Ferrer v. Fabio Fognini- Ferrer has dominated this head to head only losing one set in four matches. Fognini will have to erase any memory he had of their last meeting which occurred last week in Buenos Aires which Ferrer won 6-1 6-2. I really can't see Fognini doing enough to take two sets off Ferrer on clay but as Lukas Rosol showed us, anything can happen and that's the matches are played.
Keys for Ferrer: Fognini doesn't use his lower body and tends to get overly nonchalant with his footwork. Ferrer would do well to throw in some under spin backhands to keep the Italian low and try to vary his shots in an attempt to force the Italian out of his comfort zone. The Italian does have decent defensive skills but as long as Ferrer doesn't try and do more than he needs to, Fognini shouldn't cause Ferru too much of a problem.
Keys for Fognini: Fognini will have to throw the kitchen sink at Ferrer. He's going to have play a high quantity of balls off the rise, look to redirect as much as possible and go for more than he usually does on his serve. You'll probably be able to tell within Ferrer's first service game if the Italian is utilizing a game plan that will give him an opportunity to win. Essentially, the closer Fognini stands to the baseline on the return of serve the better the chance he has of breaking and of course winning. If he chooses to stand well behind the baseline, he has no shot because it means he'll have to outhit and out grind Ferrer. Unless Fognini decides that he wants to become aggressive only after the return is in play, look for his return positioning to serve as an indicator for how he'll fare in this match.
Prediction: Ferrer continues his onslaught in Acapulco and takes out Fognini in straight sets giving up no more than seven games
Nicolas Alamagro v. Rafael Nadal- In the 2012 French Open, these two men squared off in the quarterfinals in a match that Nadal won in straight sets. Nico gave Rafa a run for his money in the first set before ultimately losing it in a tiebreaker. The entire match was very competitive and definitely showed that Nico has the tools to do damage against any player on any surface. Unfortunately for Almagro, he is 0-8 against Nadal and six of these losses have come on clay.
Keys for Nadal: Rafa needs to keep Nico from dictating by targeting the play to his backhand. If Rafa is able to play the stellar defense we are so used to seeing from him, he'll assuredly be extracting a lot of unforced errors from his compatriot that are the result of over-hitting. Since returning in Vina Del Mar, Nadal has established a consistently deep return stance distancing himself from the baseline. While this provides him more time to react and a more comfortable contact point on second serves, it will leave him vulnerable to being aced a lot against a big server like Almagro.
Keys for Almagro: If Almagro finds himself in a situation where he is losing a majority of long rallies, it would be wise for him to throw in a few serve and volleys considering how far back Nadal is playing. If Almagro is able to push Nadal back with pace and depth and thus yield balls where he can force the action, he'll keep Rafa out of the center of the court and away from his backhand. Look for Almagro to run around his forehand early and often as it will be his biggest weapon other than his serve.
Prediction: I think Almagro turns the tables and takes out Rafa in three sets on the back of an absurd amount of aces and forehand winners