Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will clash for the second time in a fortnight as they registered comprehensive straight sets wins over second seeded Novak Djokovic and the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas, respectively, in the semi finals on Saturday at the Caja Magica in Madrid.
The local favourite Nadal, who is now on a 14 match winning streak which includes an unprecedented 10th title at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4 in the first semi final, while the Austrian GenNext star Thiem, who had saved five match points enroute to his win against the Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov was quite impressive in his 6-4, 6-4 win over the Argentine born Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in the second semi final.
It was the 50th meeting between the two, the highest number of matches between any two players on the ATP tour, Nadal raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening set including a service break to love in the opening game. He reeled of 17 of the first 20 points and would claim the first set 6-2. He broke in the third game of the second set only to be broken back but Djokovic played a sloppy fifth game to go down 2-3 which would prove decisive. He did make the Spaniard fight for the win saving two match points at 4-5 down in the second set before Nadal would seal the win in one hour and thirty eight minutes.
Nadal will be bidding to tie Djokovic as he tries to capture his 30th Masters Series event and his third title of the year. He leads Roger Federer in the ATP race to London. More importantly it was the Spaniards first win over Djokovic since the 2014 Roland Garros final and he snaps a seven match and 15 set losing streak to the Serb. Nadal won the 2005 title indoor in Madrid, and added titles in 2010 and 2013-2014.
Djokovic who was the defending champion in Madrid has only won one title in 2017 in early January at the ATP 250 event in Doha, Qatar. Last year he completed the career slam at the Roland Garros with a win over Andy Murray but has done precious little since, losing in the third round at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey, to Stanislas Wawrinka in the U.S. Open final and to Denis Istomin in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne this year.
In the second semi final, Dominic Thiem never faced a break point against the 31 year old Cuevas and improved to 14-2 on the red clay this year having won the ATP 500 event in Rio De Janeiro and finishing runner up to Nadal at the ATP 500 event in Barcelona. He will be bidding for a maiden ATP Masters title in his first final at this level.
It will be the fifth time that Nadal will play Thiem, the Spaniard has a 3-1 edge over the 23 year old Austrian who has a 26-10 record in 2017. The only time he beat Nadal was in Buenos Aires last year in the semi final. All four meetings have been on clay. Nadal has a tour best 33-5 record for the year.
Prediction :- Thiem will probably have to wait for his moment against the greatest player in the history on clay. He needs to win the first set anyhow to stand any chance in the final. Nadal should win in two tight sets or maybe three.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]