Good friends and familiar foes Dominic Thiem and David Goffin will face each other again when the full slate of third-round action in Monte-Carlo is played on Thursday. Novak Djokovic is continuing his campaign against Pablo Carreno Busta.
(6) Dominic Thiem vs. (10) David Goffin
Thiem and Goffin will be squaring off for the 10th time in their careers and for the 10th time since the start of 2014 when they battle for a place in the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Thursday. The head-to-head series stands at 6-3 (5-3 at the main-draw level) in favor of Goffin, but Thiem has taken two of their three clay-court encounters after prevailing 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-1 in the 2016 French Open quarters. They most recently collided earlier this season in round four of the Australian Open, with Goffin getting the job done 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2.
Thiem admittedly played too much tennis in 2016, did the same earlier this year during the Australian summer, and was clearly still out of gas in Melbourne. The ninth-ranked Austrian should be well-rested for the clay swing, however, because he lost his opening match in Miami to Borna Coric and skipped last week’s events in Marrakech and Houston. He kicked things off in Monte-Carlo with a 6-3, 6-2 beatdown of Robin Haase on Wednesday. Goffin also earned a first-round bye as the No. 10 seed before defeating Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-1 in a match that he trailed 4-0 and 5-1 in the opening set. The 13th-ranked Belgian is 20-7 this season with runner-up performances in Sofia and Rotterdam. Goffin may have the edge in current form, but Thiem is without question at his best on clay and he should win his third straight at Goffin’s expense on this surface.
Pick: Thiem in 3
(13) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
More than three months into the season, Carreno Busta is ahead of Djokovic in the race to the World Tour Finals–and it isn’t even close (No. 9 to No. 25). Djokovic lost early at the Australian Open to Denis Istomin and in both Acapulco and Indian Wells to Nick Kyrgios before missing Miami with an elbow injury. Perhaps back on track now, the second-ranked Serb destroyed Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a Davis Cup rubber earlier this month and battled past Gilles Simon 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on Tuesday. Simon served for the match in the final set before Djokovic recovered and eventually won in two hours and 31 minutes.
The only previous meeting between these two competitors also came in the same round of this same Monte-Carlo tournament three years ago, when Djokovic coasted 6-0, 6-1. Carreno Busta is obviously a much better player now, up to a career-high ranking of 19th in the world while consistently getting seeded for Grand Slams and Masters 1000 events. The Spaniard is 16-9 this year with a semifinal run in Indian Wells and a runner-up showing on the red clay of Rio de Janeiro. Although this will be far more competitive than their 2014 affair, Djokovic–if 100 percent–should have gotten a wake-up call from Simon and thus turn in a better performance on Thursday.
Pick: Djokovic in 2