On Friday, quarterfinal action at the Monte Carlo Country Club was headlined by a mouthwatering encounter between the King of Clay and defending champion, Rafael Nadal, and hard-hitting world number 7, Dominic Thiem. It is no secret that the clay is both players’ surface of choice and it should not come as a surprise that each of their seven contests thus far have been played on the red dirt. Of the seven matches, the Spaniard emerged victorious five times, including a commanding straight sets win in the semifinals of the French Open at the end of last year’s clay season.
As the match commenced, the defending champion set the tone early as he strived to keep Thiem at bay and force him to make a play on the ball from far behind the baseline. Nadal was gifted two breakpoint opportunities during Thiem’s first service game as the Austrian served up two double faults at deuce. The ten-time champion seized his second opportunity and quickly went up 2-0. As the match progressed, the 24 year-old continued to struggle to get into his rhythm and establish patterns of play that fit his game better. Often being forced to take incautious risks, Thiem’s unforced errors kept amounting, resulting in three consecutive breakpoint opportunities for the Spaniard during Thiem’s second service game. Despite being able to save all of those, Nadal broke through a few points after to lead 4-0. The fact that Nadal had won more than twice as many points as Thiem by the time he had gone 5-0 up denoted his utter dominance. No matter what Thiem threw at Nadal, it failed to pay dividends. Unfortunately, the trend that his unforced error count was severely affected by his attempts to play more aggressively held up until the close of the first set, which Nadal claimed 6-0 after less than half an hour.
Nadal in contrast showed no signs of slowing down and easily held serve to start the second set. Fittingly, Thiem forfeited another service game, having served his fourth double fault of the match in the process. The Spaniard did not waste any and consolidated the break to increase his lead to 3-0. After 52 minutes Thiem finally won his first game of the match which the crowd applauded encouragingly. The following three service games went by without any special events worth noting, putting the score to 5-2 in Nadal’s favor. Thiem’s groundstrokes became more stable gradually, yet he failed to attain his regular routine off of both wings. Fittingly, the match ended with a backhand error into the net of off Thiem’s racket.
Nadal, who is looking to be in supreme form for the remainder of the week and the upcoming tournaments of the European clay swing, soundly advances to the Saturday’s semifinals where he will meet Grigor Dimitrov, defeating Thiem 6-0, 6-2 in only 68 minutes.