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Nishikori vs Medvedev ATP Barcelona Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Can in-form Medvedev deny Nishikori a fourth Barcelona final?

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 27 Apr 2019
  • Kei Nishikori vs Daniil Medvedev is live from Barcelona on Saturday, 27 April from 1:30pm local time/ 12:30pm BST
  • Nishikori leads 2-1 on head-to-head
Kei Nishikori. (Photo by Mutsu Kawamori/AFLO)

Kei Nishikori and Daniil Medvedev meet in an intriguing Barcelona Open semi-final, with Nishikori seeking his fourth final at the tournament and Medvedev looking to reach his first ever clay-court final.

Nishikori has happy memories from his previous trips to Barcelona- he claimed consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015, and was a beaten finalist in 2016 (lost to Rafael Nadal), but he didn't win a match at the venue for the next two years, missing the 2017 tournament due to a wrist injury and retiring from his opening round meeting with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in 2018, also because of a wrist complaint.

The Japanese wasn't in the best of forms in the lead up to the 2019 edition, as he had lost three matches in a row, two against Hubert Hurkacz in third round of Indian Wells and the opening round of the Miami Open, and the other against Pierre-Hugues Herbert in his Monte Carlo opener, but he has rediscovered some form in Barcelona- one of his most productive hunting grounds- beating Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Roberto Carballes Baena, all in straight sets to move into the semi-finals. 

He appeared short of confidence in his tournament opener against Fritz, which was understandable, given his run of results at that point, but he eked out a 7-5 6-2 victory over the ailing American (Fritz struggled with a groin injury) to get back to winning ways.  He then secured a very convincing 6-1 6-3 victory over Auger-Aliassime in the third round, and showed that improved form and confidence in the early stages of his quarter final against lucky loser, Carballes Baena. Nishikori broke in the first game of the match, but his Spanish opponent subsequently grew into the contest, and had break points to restore parity as Nishikori served for the first set. The Japanese fended off those advances, and sealed the set with a forehand winner.

Nishikori struggled to shake off Carballes Baena in the second set, twice failing to convert 0-40 leads, and he was almost made to pay for his profligacy when Carballes Baena had break points for a 5-3 lead. Nishikori survived that threat and went on to grab the solitary break of the set in the eleventh game. A superb wrong-footing backhand winner brought up his ninth break point of the set, and he finally put one away with an inside-out forehand winner. The world No. 7 had no problems serving out the match in the next game, completing a 6-4 7-5 victory to advance to his third semi-final of the season. The first was in Brisbane when he went on to win the title, while he also made the last four in Rotterdam, losing to Stan Wawrinka.

Next up for the former world No. 4 is Russia's Daniil Medvedev who is continuing his fine transformation on clay in Barcelona.

Medvedev had only won two matches on clay in his entire career prior to last week's Monte Carlo Masters, but he has now made back-to-back semi-finals on the surface, backing up his Monte Carlo semi-final with another run to the last four in Barcelona.

His emergence as a clay-court force is in keeping with the overall improvements that began in the latter half of 2018, when he has established himself firmly in the top-20, and is closing in on the top-10.  Medvedev was ranked outside the top-60 at the start of August last season, but a strong finish to the year, including title runs in Winston-Salem and Tokyo pushed him to a year-end top-20 ranking.

He has kicked on impressively in 2019, compiling a 24-7 record, boasting more match wins than any other person on the tour this season. He already has a title from Sofia, the fourth of his career, while he made a final in Brisbane (lost to Nishikori), the fourth round of the Australian Open, and the semi-finals in Rotterdam. 

He hasn’t been without his poor patch, going 3-3 between Dubai and the Miami Open, but he has responded in superb fashion on clay, beating Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas en route a fine semi-final in Monte Carlo, and following it up with another semi-final in Barcelona, where he's had to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Mackenzie McDonald and lucky loser, Nicolas Jarry to make his fifth semi-final of the season.

When Medvedev first emerged on the tour, what was most noticeable was his aggressive flat-hitting and somewhat unorthodox style, but he's evolved into this baseline wall that is extremely difficult to get through. Not that he has lost any of his power, but his defence has been a real feature of his season, and has won him quite a few matches, as was again the case against Jarry on Friday.

That is why Saturday's semi-final against Nishikori is very fascinating. Nishikori will come after him, but will the Russian fight fire with fire, or will he hang back and lure Nishikori into errors?

“He's definitely a tough player," Nishikori said. "He has a good serve, good reach. He gets many balls. He moves well for his height, so I have to play a lot of good tennis if I want to beat him."

Nishikori has won two of their three meetings, including their only encounter on clay in Monte Carlo last season. The Japanese also won their Brisbane final earlier in the season in response to Medvedev's sole victory in last year's Tokyo final. Nishikori is the more accomplished player on clay, but Medvedev is a more assured player in the dirt this term, and has designed a formula that has worked for him so far. 

I still think he needs to be a lot more aggressive in Saturday's semi-final, as Nishikori strikes the ball so cleanly and moves so swiftly, and is very lethal if afforded the time to unload on his groundstrokes. That's where I think the Japanese wins this match!

Kei Nishikori vs Daniil Medvedev is live from Barcelona on Saturday, 27 April from 1:30pm local time/ 12:30pm BST

*Geo-restrictions apply. Streams available to customers with an active balance

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Nishikori vs Medvedev ATP Barcelona Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Can in-form Medvedev deny Nishikori a fourth Barcelona final?

Kei Nishikori takes on Daniil Medvedev in an intriguing Barcelona semi-final on Saturday. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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