By Jake Davies
- Men’s Quarter Finals on Day 10 of the 2016 US Open
- Andy Murray  vs Kei Nishikori 
- Juan Martin Del Potro [WC] vs Stan Wawrinka 
NEW YORK, USA – The scene is set as the challengers to Novak Djokovic‘s throne gear up for a place in the semi-final.
Andy Murray  vs Kei Nishikori  H2H: Murray leads 7-1
Murray’s previous meetings with Nishikori makes for positive reading for the Briton as he has lost just the one match in eight matches against the Japanese player. The one loss came at the World Tour Finals, where Murray was mentally and physically spent from a long, gruelling schedule in the build up to that tournament.
Murray acknowledges that Nishikori will be a difficult challenge and knows he has to be firing on all cylinders in their quarter-final match. The World No.7 Nishikori has improved immensely under the guidance of coach Michael Chang. Chang has aided in Nishikori’s rise from a player with undeniable potential to a regular fixture in the Top 10 and challenging the elite players.
The Chang and Nishikori partnership has also improved Nishikori’s perspective towards the rigours of a demanding sport. In previous years, Nishikori would respond negatively to minor aches and pains, but with Chang, he has had a tremendous influence in encouraging Nishikori to enjoy the adversity his student faces.
Despite the positive strides Nishikori has made, one thing he needs to improve is his record against the very best at Grand Slams. The win against Djokovic at the 2014 US Open remains as the only win he has achieved against a Big Four member at a Grand Slam. He has shown he can compete with the very best, now he must show he can beat the very best.
Murray, an eleven-time Grand Slam finalist, has answered his critics and reacted in a positive light by routing Grigor Dimitrov in their fourth round match. The previous match in the third round against Paolo Lorenzi was a minor blip in Murray’s journey to a third US Open final.
The Davis Cup rubber between Murray and Nishikori stands out like a sore thumb in their H2H. It was a match that could have tilted either way, but Murray came through in a determined five set triumph. Murray also won at the Rio Olympics, but this time it was a very one sided scoreline of 6-1 6-4 to Murray.
Excluding the match against Paolo Lorenzi, Murray has strolled through his section of the draw. The importance of conserving energy for the bigger challenges that lie ahead cannot be understated as Murray is fresh for potentially three Top 10 players in a row.
Prediction: Murray in straight sets.
Juan Martin Del Potro [WC] vs Stan Wawrinka  H2H: Del Potro leads 4-2
Del Potro has laid waste to anything in his path in this tournament thus far. He has yet to drop a set in this year’s US Open, which is a massive accomplishment considering the position he was in just twelve months ago.
Del Potro started 2016 ranked outside the Top 1000 in the world – he is now ranked No.63 in the space of just seven months back on tour. The combination of a win over Wawrinka in Wimbledon and an almighty silver-medal-winning effort at the Olympics, has given him the self-belief that he yearned for.
Del Potro’s mindset improved against the best players in the world after beating Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the Rio Olympics. This gave him the confirmation that he could return to the same heights as 2009, where he won the US Open trophy.
Wawrinka, the No.3 seed, has struggled against Del Potro in their most recent match ups. Del Potro has won their last four matches as Wawrinka has not picked up a win over the Argentinian since Wimbledon 2008.
I think Del Potro will have enough to beat Wawrinka once again. It is incredible to see a player play with such an aggressive mindset but find their targets consistently and that is what Del Potro does on the forehand side. Wawrinka has to try to make Del Potro generate his own pace off the backhand and look to come towards the net to take advantage.
Prediction: Del Potro in four sets.
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