Wimbledon fourth round preview: Rafael Nadal vs Gilles Muller

Two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal could have his biggest test of the tournament so far on Monday against Muller, who is in the form of his life aged 34.

Wimbledon fourth round preview: Rafael Nadal vs Gilles Muller
Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller face off for the seventh time on Monday. Nadal has won five of their matches (Getty Images)

Two-time Wimbledon champion and fourth seed Rafael Nadal faces a tough fourth round encounter on Monday, with the Spaniard facing 16th seed Gilles Muller, who is in the form of his life, for a place in the last eight on Monday.

The two have met five times before, with Nadal winning four of those meetings. However, their last meeting in Indian Wells last year did go to a final set, and Muller’s sole win came back at this tournament in 2005. With both men putting in, by their standards, very strong seasons, it will be interesting to see how this goes.

This is the second match to take place on Court One on Monday, with the winner facing 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut or seventh seed Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals.

Road to the fourth round

Of the two it is Nadal who has the most comfortable path to this stage, with the Spaniard yet to drop a set, though Muller has also impressed in getting to this stage.

Nadal started against John Millman, crushing the Australian for the loss of just six games to start off his campaign. Following that, the fourth seed faced a potentially more tricky match against Donald Young, though impressed once again to beat the American in straight sets. Nadal then faced another potentially dangerous opponent in 30th seed Karen Khachanov, though once again impressed to see his way into the second week without dropping a set.

Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd following his third round win over Karen Khachanov (Getty/Michael Steele)
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd following his third round win over Karen Khachanov (Getty/Michael Steele)

Seeded 16th after a strong grass court season, Muller started with a fairly simple straight sets win over wildcard Marton Fucsovics, before battling past the dangerous Lukas Rosol in five sets to reach the third round at Wimbledon for just the third time. Following that, the Luxembourg native then saw off Aljaz Bedene in straight sets to make the second week of a Grand Slam for just the fourth time in his career.

Analysis

One key factor in this match is whether Nadal can build up a rhythm against Muller, who is a big server and is unlikely to have too many long rallies on his serve. Nadal has struggled on grass against players who don’t give him much rhythm in past, most notably in his losses to Nick Kyrgios in 2014 and Dustin Brown at this tournament in 2015, and it will be interesting to see if Muller can use this to his advantage and stay solid on his serve. The 16th seed will need to serve well to give himself a chance here, and will also need to finish points off as early as possible; the Spaniard is likely to win the longer rallies.

Gilles Muller will look to be aggressive when he faces the fourth seed on Monday (Getty/Clive Brunskill)
Gilles Muller will look to be aggressive when he faces the fourth seed on Monday (Getty/Clive Brunskill)

Though he has struggled against similar opponents to Muller at this tournament in the past, Nadal is in much better form than he was in 2014 and 2015, and will be much more confident when he is attacking a big server this time. The fourth seed will undoubtedly look to be consistently aggressive, though must look to serve well as there is a chance that Muller will not give him too many opportunities to break. Also, Nadal will look to keep the rallies going, as his game is stronger overall and his chances of winning a rally only increase as the point gets longer.

Assessment

This will undoubtedly be a tricky match for both men, with both unlikely to enjoy the way in which each play. Muller has been in great form and has a slight opportunity here, but based on his form so far, it seems that Nadal will eventually prove too strong.

Prediction: Rafael Nadal in four sets