Ten-time champion and world #1 Rafael Nadal takes on Maximilian Marterer of Germany for a place in the French Open quarterfinals. Nadal has been at his dominant best so far this clay court season, with only Dominic Thiem able to defeat him, with the Austrian winning in straight sets in Madrid. That aside, Nadal won titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome and will be full of confidence. Can Marterer, who is having the best year of his career, stop him?
Nadal and Marterer have never met before with the German world #70 having played the majority of his tennis below Tour-level. The gulf in experience between the two could hardly be larger. Marterer, who had never won an ATP match before this year, has 14 victories to his name. He did impress in reaching the Australian Open third round, but this is just his third Slam main draw. Nadal, in contrast, has 16 Slam titles and has reached a further 7 finals besides. He has 233 wins at Slam level compared with Marterer’s 5.
Path to the fourth round
Nadal was stretched more than perhaps he and the crowd were expecting by Simone Bolelli in a rain interrupted first round match. The Spaniard, who took a two set lead into the overnight break, had to recover from a break down and save three set points in the third set tiebreak before prevailing 6-4 6-3 7-6. He was rather more comfortable in defeating Guido Pella 6-2 6-1 6-1 before defeating Gasquet for the 16th time without reply 6-3 6-2 6-2 to return to the fourth round.
Marterer began his Roland Garros with an impressive win against the higher-ranked Ryan Harrison, defeating the American 6-1 6-3 7-5. He backed that victory up with a comeback win against the talented young gun Denis Shapovalov, seeded 24th in Paris, with Marterer winning 5-7 7-6 7-5 6-4 in a closely contested affair. The German then reached the second week of a Slam for the first time in his career by defeating Estonian qualifier Jurgen Zopp 6-2 6-1 6-4.
How do they match up?
For Marterer this will be a test unlike any he has faced thus far in his career. The German is not without weapons, his first serve is powerful and his forehand is a useful shot. He has also shown impressive legs, particularly in outlasting Fernando Verdasco in five sets at the Australian Open earlier this year. But he has never faced a player of Nadal’s quality. The Spaniard will reach shots that others wouldn’t and hit winners from positions that others couldn’t.
In Marterer’s favour is his left-handedness which will spare his backhand, very much his weaker wing, from an examination by the Nadal crosscourt forehand. However, he will still need to contend with the exceptionally potent Nadal offence, and the Spaniard has been hitting his backhand notably well since the arrival of Carlos Moya in his camp. Marterer will also need to return better than he usually does, with the German dropping far too many short. Against Nadal that will be punished, severely.
Marterer’s run to the fourth round has been hugely impressive and the German, still just 22, may well have a bright future in the game. But his run will end here. He doesn’t have the quality to compete with Nadal over five-sets. Nadal will have too many avenues of attack against the German, whilst the occasion of playing on a Grand Slam’s premier show court will also surely take some getting used to for Marterer. By the time he has, the match may well be over. Nadal in straight sets.