Barcelona SF preview and prediction: Murray vs. Thiem

Andy Murray and Dominic Thiem will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers when they square off in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Saturday. Both of their previous encounters have gone Murray’s way in deciding sets. He prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on the indoor hard courts of Rotterdam in 2014 and 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the 2015 Miami Masters.

Fast forward to 2017 and Thiem is a much more dangerous opponent now–especially on clay. The 23-year-old is up to No. 9 in the rankings, played in the World Tour Finals last fall, and is a French Open semifinalist (2016). Theim overworked himself last season and has been similarly up-and-down this year, but he has still played well enough to be seventh in the race to London (third if he wins the Barcelona title). So far this week he has advanced with straight-set victories over Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans, and Yuichi Sugita.

“Today was my best match,” Thiem said after blasting Sugita 6-1, 6-2 on Friday. “I was very focused and aggressive from the beginning. I knew he was in great shape after beating three great players before me. My game-plan was to take him out of his comfort zone. I sliced a lot and tried to play with high spin.”

With just a single match win since early March prior to arriving in Barcelona, Murray is in dire need of a successful week. Following a first-round bye and a walkover from Bernard Tomic, the top-ranked Scot took care of Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4 but almost lost to Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Friday. Ramos-Vinolas, who beat Murray in Monte-Carlo and finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal, served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but ended up losing 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(4).

Of course, Murray will have to do a lot more than beat Lopez, Ramos-Vinolas, and Gilles Muller (in Monte-Carlo) to prove he is even coming close to the level that was on display last fall. He has defeated only one top 10 player this year (Tomas Berdych in Doha) and no one in the current top 12. Since beating Berdych he has lost to Ramos-Vinolas, Mischa Zverev (Australian Open), and Vasek Pospisil (Indian Wells).

Thiem is more confident than Murray right now and is moving better on this surface. The fourth seed should be able to keep Murray off balance with his heavy kick serve and variety off the ground–topspin forehand and flat one-hander off the backhand side. The world No. 1’s slump is more likely to end on grass or a hard court than it is against Thiem on clay.

Pick: Thiem in 3

27 Comments on Barcelona SF preview and prediction: Murray vs. Thiem

  1. I’m with you, Ricky. I think if Murray were able to pull this one out, it could be considered somewhat of a turning point for him… I just hope we get the Dominic Thiem we’ve seen in the previous rounds, and not the played-too-many-matches, burned out Thiem.

  2. funny feeling Murray raises his level here and grinds out this result in three… just better in clutch moments…

    good match up though

  3. Thiem in two or three. Thiem when he plays well, hits like a Stan from both wings (though not as consistently); Murray may be blown off court by Thiem, but with Murray’s tennis intelligence, he will make it a competitive one. I think Thiem is better than ARV, at least he’s fresher, not having to go three sets in his matches, and having lost early at MC.

    I have to admire Murray for his guile, his intelligence when playing not at his best but still able to beat ARV. His use of S&V, lobs, unbelievable retrieving speed and ability; anticipation ability, etc and etc. He’s just that much better than ARV, it’s just that he’s not yet back to his best after his elbow injury.

  4. As always Lucky has nailed it. Murray is way below his best level as we all know. He only entered to get more time on clay and is still playing his way back into form but I think he will raise his level for the SF although probably not enough to get the win unless he can tame that wayward serve of his.

    Theim in 3 (1 easy set and two hard fought sets.

  5. Andy is playing better as the match wears on. Thiem came out strong and got the fist set 6-2.

    Second set is competitive – Andy’s going to get this set, I think. He’s serving ahead and just needs to break now or at least keep pressure on him

    Well the pressure got to Thiem…Andy breaks

  6. Glimpses of why Andy’s #1. Such variety,guile, speed. A notch better. And Thiem is already in danger of losing serve – first game, third set.

    I hope Thiem fights back but Andy breaks easily.

  7. Wow. Fantastic. Thiem breaks right back. It’s a great match! Andy just has to serve better. Haven’t checked stats…just imo..Andy not quite there yet. But he can force errors outta Thiem.

  8. I think that Rafa may not remotely be challenged today, and could win in an hour, and then would be a lot fresher for the final than Murray/Thiem.

  9. Just woke up to see the match point. Murray must’ve played a bit better cuz he at least made it a match against the clay court baller in Thiem lol. Upcoming clay court events don’t look too good for Murray. Rafa could be top 3 by Roland Garros if he keeps it up and Murray and Djokovic keep up their form.

    • Just turned on the tv to see highlights from Murray/Thiem. Murray just not there yet. But it was a good match from what I saw of the highlights. They said Murray’s serve is still not where it should be.

      Nice win for Thiem. It’s going to give him a boost of confidence going forward, The next gen guys are making themselves heard. Goffin beating Novak and now Thiem beating Murray.

  10. Rafa wins
    It was sweet for Zeballos to ask Rafa for a selfie after the match shows he respects Nadal and was proud to play against him.

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