Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem ATP Madrid tennis Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Irrepressible Nadal takes on stuttering Thiem in a rematch of last year's final

Leye Aduloju in ATP 11 May 2018
  • Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem is live from Madrid on Friday, 11 May from 5:00pm local time/ 4:00pm BST
  • Nadal has won six of their previous eight matches, all on clay
  • Watch & bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify).   
Rafael Nadal. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)

On an amazing 21-match, 50-set winning streak on clay, world number one, Rafael Nadal continues his record-breaking run on the dirt on Friday when he takes on Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals of the Madrid Open.

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem ATP Mutua Madrid Open tennis is live from Madrid on Friday, 11 May from 5:00pm local time/ 4:00pm BST
Watch & bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)

Thiem was the last man to beat Nadal on clay- back in Rome in last season- and the Austrian was largely seen as the No. 1 challenger to Nadal’s dominance on clay, and his bid for an 11th Roland Garros title in 2018. However, the gap between the two has widened significantly, with Nadal elevating his game to another level, and Thiem struggling to keep up with the Spaniard. Indeed, when they met in Monte Carlo last month, Nadal crushed the young pretender, sparing him just two games in a clear message to the rest of the tour that he stands alone as the King of Clay.

Nadal’s current streak of consecutive sets on clay began at Roland Garros last season, where the great man won a tenth title. Ten was the magic number for Nadal last year, as he also picked up tenth titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, while he added a fifth Madrid crown. Oh, he also won titles on other surfaces, significant ones too; as he claimed the US Open crown for the third time and added the Beijing crown to his collection in a wonderfully resurgent season.

He ended the year under an injury cloud, as he was forced to quit the Nitto ATP Finals with a knee injury, and began the new year also with injury concerns, as he retired from his Australian Open quarter final against Marin Cilic with a hip complaint. Nadal didn’t play again for the rest of the hard-court season, but that two-month break appears to be working wonders for the Spaniard on his favourite clay. He has looked fit, fresh and hungry, and is looking unstoppable. Not that Nadal needs any motivating, but if he is looking for one, perhaps it is the chance to complete the clean sweep of Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros- something he has never done in the past. Given the great clay court seasons he has compiled over the years, it’s hard to phantom that at 31, he would be on the verge of his greatest campaign on the dirt. Incredible.

It’s been a record-breaking season for Nadal; he breached the 400-win mark on clay in Barcelona, and his 50 straight sets on clay is a new record for consecutive wins on a single surface, breaking John McEnroe’s 34-year-old record. Having already captured eleventh titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Nadal is seeking a sixth title in Madrid. He opened with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Gael Monfils and outlasted a brave Diego Schwartzman in the third round. It’s amazing how Schwartzman hits the ball for a man that size, but he certainly took the game to Nadal, combining his crunching groundstrokes with his speed around the court to create a semblance of competition. After all of that, Nadal still emerged with a 6-3 6-4 win!


The next man to try his hands at halting this beast is Dominic Thiem, who will be seeking some redemption after being blown away by Nadal in Monte Carlo earlier in the season. 

Dominic Thiem. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)
Thiem was again quiet on hard courts- he opened the year with a semi-final in Doha; but crashed disappointingly to a fourth-round loss to Tennys Sandgren at the Australian Open. He made the quarter finals in Acapulco; and retired from a third-round meeting with Pablo Cuevas at Indian Wells because of an ankle injury which also ruled him out of Miami. He recovered in time to start his European clay campaign as scheduled.

He was clearly the second-best player on clay last season, reaching three clay-court finals (Rio, Madrid and Barcelona), and contesting semi-finals in Rome and Roland Garros. He scored some marquee wins along the way, particularly in Rome, where he muscled his way past Nadal in the quarter finals. Thiem and Nadal played three other times on clay last year, with the Spaniard winning finals in Barcelona and Madrid, and a semi-final at Roland Garros. 

He has not quite looked as sharp on the surface in 2018- the world number seven did win a title at Buenos Aires, but he has failed to get beyond the quarter finals in three consecutive clay-court tournaments. His title defence in Rio ended in a crushing quarter final defeat to Fernando Verdasco; he was spared just two games by Nadal in the last eight in Monte Carlo, while he fell to the unheralded Greek young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas at the same stage in Barcelona. It’s not just been about the results, or lack of, he has also not impressed with the quality of his play; and has had to dig very deep to get over the line in the last few weeks.

Madrid has been a case in study, with the Austrian needing three sets to get past Federico Delbonis and Borna Coric en route the quarter finals. Coric, who to be fair has been in great form this season, had Thiem on the ropes, as he served for the match at 6-2 5-4, but the Croatian fluffed his lines, allowing Thiem back into the contest. The Austrian was dominant in the ensuing tie break, and after saving three break points at 3-4 in a tight final set, he squeezed out a break in the next game, before closing out an extremely tough 6-2 6-7 6-4 victory after two hours and 25 minutes.

Thiem and Nadal meet for the ninth time on Friday, with Nadal winning six of the previous eight, all of which have been on clay. 

"Very tough match. Especially here on this surface and even more in altitude. His bounces and topspin are very high and difficult to control," Nadal said. "I need to be ready for tomorrow. It will be a very tough match to play but it's a good opportunity to play against one of the best players of the world."  
“Tomorrow is a key match in the tournament. It's one of the matches where I have to be a step ahead. I think I’m prepared for that step.”

The Austrian has got the game to beat Nadal, but a lot has to go right on the day. Basically, everything has got to go in, like they did in Rome last year when he kept muscling the ball into the corners off both wings. However, he has not been hitting them as consistently this season. Nadal, on the other hand, has had the ball (and the whole of the tour I would imagine) on a string, seemingly doing basically anything he wants to do. Again, there will be no complications- high-bouncing forehand into Thiem’s one-handed backhand until he gets a ball to put away (or an error from his opponent). And if that tactic doesn’t work, perhaps Thiem finds a Federer-like solution to the backhand assault, the Spaniard is the expert at making in-game adjustments, and he will not be afraid to go into Thiem’s forehand. Such is the confidence of the man at the moment.

“It's the biggest challenge in tennis right now. It's really, really tough,” Thiem said of the challenge in front of him. “I'm going into the match to win, even though it's not very realistic, the way he plays now, the way I play now”. 
“(Rome last year) was one of the best matches of my life. If I want to repeat… it takes the same. I have to play very aggressive with not many mistakes.”

Thiem will have to play lights out and hope for best, but I’m not sure he will get much joy, as Nadal has looked unbeatable on clay this season.

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem is live from Madrid on Friday, 11 May from 5:00pm local time/ 4:00pm BST
Watch and bet on the match live at bet365 > live streaming > Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify).  


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Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem ATP Madrid tennis Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Irrepressible Nadal takes on stuttering Thiem in a rematch of last year's final

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem meet in Madrid on Friday in a rematch of last year's final. Can Thiem make this competitive? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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