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Ricky’s Picks and Preview for the Madrid ATP Tennis Semi • Thiem vs. Zverev and Berrettini vs. Ruud

Alexander Zverev of Germany in action during his quarter final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, central Spain, 07 May 2021. EPA-EFE/CHEMA MOYA

By Ricky Dimon

After ousting Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev will try to keep his run going when he runs into Dominic Thiem in the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud are aiming for a more surprising spot in the title match. Ricky previews the action and makes his picks.

(5) Alexander Zverev vs. (3) Dominic Thiem

It will be a rematch of the 2020 U.S. Open final when Zverev and Thiem collide in the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals on Saturday. Thiem memorably battled back from two sets down and a break down in the third to triumph over Zverev 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) last summer in New York. The Austrian now leads the head-to-head series 8-2, but Zverev dominated their only previous Madrid encounter 6-4, 6-4 in the 2018 title match.

That is the same score by which the German upset Rafael Nadal on Friday. In four appearances at this tournament, Zverev has one title, two quarterfinal results, and now a semifinal showing. The world No. 6 preceded his defeat of Nadal with straight-set victories over Kei Nishikori and Dan Evans. Thiem, who has played sparingly in 2021 because of injury and mental fatigue, is back in business with Madrid wins at the expense of Marcos Giron, Alex de Minaur, and John Isner. The two-time French Open runner-up is generally better on clay than Zverev, but conditions in Madrid are obviously far different from other clay-court events and Zverev also has the edge in current form.

Pick: Zverev in 3

Casper Ruud of Norway celebrates winning against Aleksandr Bublik of Kazakhstan during their Mutua Madrid Open quarter final match against held in Madrid, Spain, 07 May 2021. EPA-EFE/RODRIGO JIMENEZ

Casper Ruud vs. (8) Matteo Berrettini

The bottom half of the draw has been open since the beginning of the week, and it is Ruud and Berrettini who took advantage. Ruud inflicted significant carnage on the bracket with his own hand, upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4 in the third round. The world No. 22 has also advanced by taking out Felix Auger-Aliassime, Yoshihito Nishioka, and Alexander Bublik–all in straight sets. Ruud is through to a third consecutive clay-court semifinal (previously Monte-Carlo and Munich) and he also made a run to the semis last fall in Rome.

At that Rome event less than a year ago, Ruud reached the semis by beating Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5). The overall head-to-head series stands at 2-1 in the Norwegian’s favor, including 2-0 on clay. Berrettini, however, has won seven matches in a row right now–a stretch that includes his fourth career ATP title on the red clay in Belgrade. So far this week the world No. 10 has defeated Fabio Fognini, Federico Delbonis, and Cristian Garin, dropping one set to Garin in the process. Berrettini is dangerous, but on clay it’s hard to pick against Ruud unless he is facing one of the top seven players in the world.

Pick: Ruud in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.