Rafael Nadal continues to try and bounce back from his early exit at Wimbledon as he makes his way through the ATP 500 in Hamburg, Germany. After Nadal defeated Jiri Vesely in straight sets on Thursday, he topped Pablo Cuevas in the quarterfinals in straight sets on Friday.
Nadal needed just 72 minutes to advance to the semifinals. He’ll face Andreas Seppi on Saturday, who advanced after Simone Bolelli wasn’t able to participate in their quarterfinals match because of a stomach ailment.
The tournament is Nadal's first since he was bounced in the second round of Wimbledon by heavy underdog Dustin Brown. After ranking No.2 in the world at this time last year, Nadal finds himself at No.10 in the ATP world rankings. But despite the recent troubles, a win in the weak field at Hamburg could do a lot to improve his confidence ahead of the U.S. Open next month.
Claiming the title would give Nadal 500 ATP ranking points, helping him surpass No.9 Marin Cilic and No.8 Milos Raonic. Ranking in the top eight would improve Nadal’s chances of having a deep run in the final Grand Slam tournament of 2015, allowing him to perhaps avoid the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray until the quarterfinals. Had Nadal not been upset at Wimbledon, he would have been forced to take on Murray in the fourth round.
It would be an upset if Nadal doesn’t end up winning the German tournament and improve his standing in the rankings. He’s competing in a field without a Top 20 player, suggesting Nadal will have an easy path to the final. Seppi won't be a pushover, but he ranks No.26 in the world and has only three singles titles in his career while never advancing beyond the fourth round of a grand slam.
The biggest advantage Nadal has is that the tournament is played on clay. While Nadal wasn’t able to win the French Open, he didn’t lose until he faced No.1-ranked Djokovic, and he still remains a top player on the surface. Seppi hasn’t had any success on clay this year, losing in the first round at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros.
Winning a tournament will improve Nadal’s ranking and give him much needed confidence, but it remains to be seen how well it will prepare him to play on hard courts of Flushing Meadows. Nadal didn’t play in the final Grand Slam event of 2014, but he won the U.S. Open championship the previous year.
A victory in Hamburg would give Nadal his first European clay-court title of 2015, and he's won at least one every year since 2004.