Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem ATP Monte Carlo Masters tennis Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: King of Clay, Nadal takes on heir apparent, Thiem in heavyweight quarter final

Leye Aduloju in ATP 20 Apr 2018
  • Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem is live from Monte Carlo on Friday, 20 April from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST
  • Nadal leads 5-3 on head-to-head- all seven previous meeting have been on clay
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Monte Carlo 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 Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It’s the King of Clay against his heir apparent as Rafael Nadal takes on Dominic Thiem in a heavyweight clash at the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday.

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem ATP Monte Carlo tennis is live from Monte Carlo on Friday, 20 April from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Watch and bet on tennis live from Monte Carlo at bet365 > live streaming > tennis

The European clay court season isn’t even a week old, but there are already some clear patterns emerging. Nadal will again be ridiculously difficult to beat on this surface, while Dominic Thiem has again positioning himself as the man most likely to challenge the Spaniard in his clay-court dominance.

Nadal is playing his first ATP tournament since the Australian Open, but he hasn’t taken any time at all to find his feet on clay, cruising through his opening two rounds in Monte Carlo to reach the quarter finals for the fourteenth straight year. A fabulous comeback year saw the great Spaniard dominate the clay season in 2017, winning tenth titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros, and adding a third US Open crown on his way to finishing the year as the No. 1 player in the world. Nadal reached the quarter finals at the Australian Open in his 2018 opener, but a thigh injury forced him to retire from his last eight meeting with Marin Cilic. The Spaniard missed the next two months; but made a triumphant comeback by guiding Spain past Germany in the Davis Cup quarter finals in Valencia. Nadal had laid down his clay-court gauntlet with a crushing victory over Alexander Zverev in that Davis Cup tie, and he has backed it up with a couple of domineering performances in Monte Carlo. Nadal dropped just four games in his tournament opener against Aljaz Bedene, before cutting down the big-hitting Karen Khachanov to size in the third round.

The ten-time champion jumped out of the blocks to a 3-0 lead, and while he got broken back in an uncharacteristic sloppy seventh game, Nadal won four games in a row to take the opening set; and open up a 2-0 lead in the second. The world number one broke one more time on his way to completing a resounding 6-3 6-2 victory over the Russian youngster.

"I think I played little bit better than yesterday”, Nadal said. “My serve worked well and my forehand was better than yesterday.”

Awaiting the Spaniard in the quarter finals is a clash against Dominic Thiem, the man best positioned to take over the leadership of the clay kingdom when the Spaniard eventually decides to call it a career. Thiem came into Monte Carlo with an injury cloud hanging over his head, having retired from Indian Wells with an ankle problem, and pulled out of Miami with the same injury. He made an unconvincing start to the Madrid, dodging one match point in his three-set victory over Andrey Rublev in the second round. However, he not only showed his physical fitness, but also mental resilience in his third-round victory over Novak Djokovic, battling back from painful collapse in the opening set to eventually wear down the two-time champion.

Thiem had muscled his way to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but he failed to convert three set points, making two poor forehand errors when he served for the set at 5-3 40-15. Djokovic smelt blood; and moved in for the kill. Raising his level significantly, the Serbian dominated the ensuing tie break, capitalizing on a multitude of backhand errors from a panicky Thiem to take the opening set after an hour.

Djokovic threatened to take full control when he had a break point in Thiem’s opening service game of the second set, but the Austrian fended off the danger, and slowly began to assert his authority on the match with some uncompromising hitting from the back of the court. Thiem slowly wore Djokovic down, winning four games in a row from 2-2 to even the match. It was a familiar story in the third set, with the first six games passing without a break point, but Thiem pulled away from 3-3, breaking twice to complete a very satisfying 6-7 6-2 6-3 victory, which takes him into the quarter finals for the first time in his career.

“Every win is important, especially against such a great player as Novak,” said Thiem. “It's the quarter-finals now, so it's only getting tougher… It was important for my self-confidence, to know I'm physically 100 per cent again. It was a great win. Of course it's important, but tomorrow is a new day.”

Having lost his first five matches against Djokovic, Thiem has now won two in a row against the Serbian, adding to last year’s victory at Roland Garros. 

Dominic Thiem. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
The Austrian was superb on clay last season, winning Rio, reaching finals in Madrid and Barcelona and making semis in Rome and Roland Garros. He was the only man to beat the runaway train Nadal on clay last year. Thiem was less impressive away from clay, as he failed to make a single semi-final outside the dirt all season. It took him just one tournament to make his first hard court semi-final in 2018, as he reached the semi-finals in Doha, there wasn’t much on the surface outside that. He could only manage a fourth-round run at the Australian Open, made the quarter finals in Acapulco, before retiring hurt from a third-round meeting with Pablo Cuevas at Indian Wells. While all that was going on, the clay prince still managed to sneak in a title on the dirt of Roland Garros, while he suffered a surprising quarter final loss to Fernando Verdasco in Rio.


He takes on another Spanish left-hander in another ATP quarter final on Friday, and while his Rio loss to Verdasco was an upset, the Austrian starts as a firm second favourite when he confronts Nadal in the quarter finals. This is the eighth meeting between Nadal and Thiem- and all seven previous matches have been on clay, Nadal leading 5-2. There are no complications with Nadal’s game plan, he will look to wear down Thiem’s weaker backhand with his spin-laden lefty forehand until the Austrian supplies a weak reply or breaks down completely. 

“It's the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him (Nadal),” said Thiem. “For sure tomorrow, I have to raise my level again. I think I'm able to do that. If you do so, I'm going to have chances tomorrow. If not, I'm out. It's pretty easy… Of course, I would have liked to have faced him later in the tournament. But the draw was a little bit unlucky for me, especially. Hopefully for him, as well, tomorrow.”

Thiem has also got a monster forehand of his own, but Nadal’s remarkable defence is such that the Austrian has basically got to redline his game for the duration of the match, like he did in Rome last year to stand a chance. It’s an early test of both men’s credentials, and both will be keen to lay down early markers for the rest of the clay-court season. While Thiem has been making serious inroads on this surface over the last couple of season, Nadal still rules the Kingdom of Clay, and should once again be too good for his heir apparent. 

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem is live from Monte Carlo on Friday, 20 April from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am 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 Monte Carlo Masters tennis Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: King of Clay, Nadal takes on heir apparent, Thiem in heavyweight quarter final

Rafael Nadal rakes on Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals of the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday. Will the King of Clay take down his heir apparent once again? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online

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