An ecstatic del Potro kisses the ground after beating Nadal for a place against Murray in the gold medal match pic.twitter.com/IpYDHNhbaP
— Tennis View Magazine (@TennisViewMag) August 13, 2016
Juan Martin del Potro vs. Andy Murray
Juan Martin del Potro beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to this gold medal match. Those two men have combined for 26 major titles. Wouldn’t I be a fool to pick against him versus Andy Murray? Perhaps, I am a fool. Andy Murray has reached 6 consecutive tournament finals having posted wins in Rome, at Queen’s Club, and Wimbledon as well as runner-up finishes at Madrid and Roland Garros. Murray has not lost a match since Ivan Lendl returned to his coaching team. Andy Murray had the easier and earlier semifinal match. Murray also faces del Potro in a best of 5 set match. That is a different animal. I think JMDP can win. He has a huge serve and radioactive forehand. JMDP clearly has mental toughness as well. Still, I wonder if he will have enough stamina left to challenge Murray across potentially 5 sets.
What I think will happen: I think Andy Murray’s mobility and return of serve will force del Potro to work hard to win points. That may begin to chip away at JMDP’s fitness given his taxing semifinal win over Rafael Nadal. Also, Murray will try to get to the Argentine’s backhand and force delPo to hit forehands on the run. If Murray executes this game plan he should win in 3 or 4 sets. However, in olympic tennis it is not unheard of for a player to find reserves and execute something spectacular. JMDP could take out the world #1 in the first round and world #2 to take the gold.
My Prediction: Andy Murray d. Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 – I think the 3 of 5 set format plus the toll of the semifinal round will make this Murray’s match to lose.
Confidence in my pick: moderate – Murray is playing quite well, but in olympic play who knows?
Kei Nishikori vs. Rafael Nadal
Nishikori is capable of returning serve well and keeping the ball in regions of the court that Rafa will not enjoy. Having said that, Nishikori did not show a lot in the semifinal round. Maybe Rafa will be spent from his doubles gold and semifinal clash with JMDP, but Rafa has to be favored. Nadal’s success or failure will depend on his ability to push Nishikori off of the baseline. If Rafa serves reasonably well and keeps his ground strokes deep, he should be able to keep Nishikori from controlling court positioning. If Nishikori can stand on the baseline and rob Nadal of time, Rafa will be in trouble.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Kei Nishikori 7-5, 6-3
Confidence in my pick: low – Rafa should win if he is not out of energy, but if Rafa is not able to push Kei backwards, it could be a long day for the Spaniard.