ATP Doha quarterfinal preview: Andy Murray vs Nicolas Almagro

Two-time Qatar ExxonMobil Open champion Andy Murray had a tough second round match with Gerard Melzer, the younger brother of Jurgen Melzer, however, the world number one came through that match unscathed and he is currently on a 26-match winning streak, with his last defeat coming to Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals of the US Open in September, and he is building some momentum heading towards the Australian Open, where he has lost five finals to Roger Federer in 2010 and to Novak Djokovic four times in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Spain's Nicolas Almagro is currently ranked at 44 in the world, and the former world number nine has endured a foot injury in 2014 which caused him to have three injury-plagued seasons, nonetheless, Almagro is still a dangerous player and he has recorded scalps in the past over the top players.

Murray's route to the quarterfinals

Murray began his 2017 season against Jeremy Chardy in the first round, which could have been a difficult opponent for the Brit as Chardy is a former top 25 player and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2013. On the other hand, you could tell that it was the first match of a season for the Frenchman, and the world number one already had a few matches under his belt by competing in the Mubadala Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi which is an exhibition event, against David Goffin and Milos Raonic. Murray's quality shone above Chardy in the opening set and it was closer encounter in the second set but Murray prevailed, 6-0, 7-6 (2). 

In the second round, Murray eventually got past Gerard Melzer, 7-6 (6), 7-5 in over two hours to set up a quarterfinal tie with Almagro.

Almagro's route to the quarterfinals

The 31-year-old maintained his unbeaten record over Paolo Lorenzi, defeating the Italian in three sets, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3 in just under two-and-a-half hours. In the second round, Almagro continued his good form, ousting seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6) for the seventh time in ten meetings.

Almagro competing in Shanghai last year (Photo by Zhong Zhi / Getty Images)
Almagro competing in Shanghai last year (Photo by Zhong Zhi / Getty Images)

Their history

Murray and Almagro have met on five occasions, and they have met on all three surfaces. The world number one leads 4-1 in their head-to-head meetings with Murray leading 2-0 on hard courts, 1-0 on grass and they are even on clay, 1-1.

The unseeded Spaniard won their first meeting in the third round of the French Open in 2008, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5, and since then it has been one-way traffic with Murray winning the next four consecutive meetings, starting with a victory in the second round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, 7-6 (3), 6-2 in 2009, however, Almagro retired in their fourth round encounter at the Miami Open in 2010, trailing a set and 1-0 in the second set. The duo wouldn't meet for another two years until the London Olympics in 2012 in the quarterfinals with the eventual gold medal winner prevailing 6-4, 6-1, and the Spaniard won his first set off Murray in six years in their last meeting in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open in 2014 with Murray winning 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.

Murray had a tough test against Melzer (Photo by Karim Jaafar / Getty Images)
Murray had a tough test against Melzer (Photo by Karim Jaafar / Getty Images)

Who wins

The world number one has come through two tough tests, and no doubt he will be in store for another tough match with Almagro, despite the Spaniard not being at his best anymore, he is still a dangerous player who generates power from his one-handed backhand which he is renowned for. The world number 44 likes to dictate play from the baseline and his service motion is generally quick. Despite being good on hard courts, Almagro has reached all of his career finals on clay.

Murray will be the favourite to win this match and extend his winning run to 27 matches, the Brit is an exceptional returner, and both players will trade in rallies but the two-time champion will come out on top, and he has the ability to throw in an occasional drop shot to get the Spaniard off the baseline. Both players are not afraid to show their emotion on court, and this will be an exciting encounter for the spectators to watch.

This is the third match scheduled on Centre Court, and the winner of this match will play the winner of the final match between a pair of former Grand Slam finalists, third seed Tomas Berdych or fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals.

Prediction: Murray in straight sets