Rome QF previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Thiem, Djokovic vs. Del Potro

Another meeting between familiar foes Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem is set for Friday in Rome. Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro are also aiming for a place in the semifinals of the season’s last clay-court Masters 1000 event.

(8) Dominic Thiem vs. (4) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Thiem will be squaring off for the sixth time in their careers (all on clay) and for the third time during this clay-court swing when they meet again in the quarterfinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Friday. The head-to-head series stands at 4-1 in favor of Nadal, who recently won title matches over Thiem 6-4, 6-1 in Barcelona and 7-6(8), 6-4 in Madrid. Although this is their third showdown in such a short time frame, the seventh-ranked Austrian actually came close to getting zero shots at Nadal prior to the French Open. He outlasted Andy Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the Barcelona semis, saved five match points against Grigor Dimitrov in the Madrid third round, and fought off three match points before beating Sam Querrey 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) on Thursday in Rome.

As usual, Nadal has taken the much more routine path into another battle against Thiem. The fourth-ranked Spaniard has not surrendered a set this week, taking out Nicolas Almagro (via a first-set retirement) and Jack Sock. In fact, Nadal has not dropped a single set since his opening match in Madrid (vs. Fabio Fognini) and he has surrendered only two on clay this spring. Thiem’s 15-3 record on the red stuff in 2017 is outstanding, but Nadal is a perfect 17-0 on the surface. An obvious favorite even with all things being equal, the 14-time major champion should enjoy even more of an edge with his opponent coming off another tough day at the office.

Pick: Nadal in 2

Juan Martin Del Potro vs. (2) Novak Djokovic

Djokovic and Del Potro will be facing each other for the 18th time in their careers on Friday. The head-to-head series is being dominated by Djokovic 13-4, but they have delivered more than their fair share of dramatic matches over the years. That includes a 7-6(4), 7-6(2) upset in Del Potro’s favor at last summer’s Rio Olympics and a pair of three-set victories already this season for Djokovic (in Acapuclo and Indian Wells).

A matchup worthy of the Rome final that is once again coming too early (this time in the quarters), Djokovic-Del Potro did not come close to being denied. The world No. 2 made his way to the last eight by picking up straight-set wins over Aljaz Bedene and Roberto Bautista Agut. Del Potro has dropped one set this week, but he had no trouble erasing an early deficit against Grigor Dimitrov and he parlayed that success into more routine defeats of Kyle Edmund and Kei Nishikori. The 34th-ranked Argentine, who has locked up a seed at Roland Garros, is 10-4 this season and 4-0 on clay. While Djokovic is showing signs of improvement, his timing remains a little off and baseline errors are still too common. The big-hitting Del Potro should be able to dictate with his forehand and keep the Serb off balance.

Pick: Del Potro in 3

56 Comments on Rome QF previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Thiem, Djokovic vs. Del Potro

  1. Rafa in 2 – Late night for Thiem against Querrey – Almagro retirement couldn’t have come at a better time for Rafa

    Novak in 3 – Novak is showing signs of recovery and should realise the importance of this match (final points to defend) considering Murray has been flopping even more than he has – and he should also be desperate to get another crack at Rafa. DelPo’s forehand makes up for his (still) lack of a piercing backhand but I think Novak should take advantage with his solid cross-court backhand like he did for many years over Rafa.

    • TG, you’re talking about Rafa or Delpo? What has Djoko’s CC BH vs Rafa got to do with Djoko’s match vs Delpo?

      You forget Delpo is a righty, his FH vs Djoko’s FH, Delpo has the advantage. Delpo also can hit his I/O FH from his BH corner. So, it’s 50/50 for Delpo vs Djoko but Delpo is more rusty than Djoko so Djoko has a slight edge.

      Rafa’s FH is also getting better and better, I doubt Djoko could gain any advantage with his CC BH, when Rafa could use his FHDTL to change direction. Also Rafa’s BH is also getting better and so it’s able to counter Djoko’s CC FH. Rafa is also using his BHDTL these days, so another way to change direction and keeps Djoko guessing.

  2. Nadal in 2 6-4 7-5. Djokovic in 2 7-6, 6-4. Semis Nadal beats Djokovic again 6-2, 6-4 and wins title

  3. Nadal will become world number three if he wins his match today. If he wins the French he will be world number 2

    • Yeah, I really hope Rafa can win both Rome and the FO to at least get to no.2. Thereafter, he can work to win at the other slam(s) and get to no.1 again. One thing at a time though.

    • MA,

      Sorry but I didn’t see these links earlier. Then I just got too caught up in the match.

      Thanks for posting them! Always good to read Rafa’s thoughts and Carlos Moya’s!

      Today was not Rafa’s day, but it’s a tennis match! Not life and death!

      • That’s okay Nny!!….And you’re welcome Milady!!hehe…Anyway..we know Rafa has to lose sometime,somewhere…so he can regroup and rest and pick up his momentum back in Paris…Oh,can’t wait for RG to start!!..Hope there is nothing happen this time to him…and he can play for 2 whole weeks..and WIN!!!Woohoo!!

        • MA,

          It is such a relief to talk to you! I was really upset watching the match because I feared that this might happen.

          But I believe that everything happens for a reason.

          I wished Rafa happy fishing in a later post I made after the match!

          • Hey Nny!!…Yeah,i’m happy to be able to talk to u too!!…i’m sorry i’m not here for u sooner…yeah Nny…you’re absolutely right…evrything happened for a reason…sure,we’re disappointed but we have to take the positive out of this….Rafa never won 4 in a row even in his prime and much younger than this…3 is already fanbelievabletastic right?,it’s okay if he lose here Nny…The FO is what mattered the most…’re already read this?If’re going to feel a LOT better after u read this..believe me Nny….


            • MA,

              Thanks so much for this! Love reading Rafa’s words. He analyzed the match quite well. He has a wonderful way of breaking it down. He was basically feeling the effects of playing so much and ran up against a player who came out aggressive and playing great. Which is what I thought might happen.

              I get a sense sometimes, I can’t explain it. Just a feeling about a match. I had a bad feeling about this one. I was very nervous. Then my worst fears were realized when Thiem came out blasting.

              I know you didn’t want Rafa to play Rome. I hate to see Rafa lose. You know that. I didn’t want to see him give Thiem any more reason to be confident. But I realize now that it’s better for it to happen here.

              Now Rafa needs rest. The #3 ranking will come. RG is the most important thing to Rafa. He has done a great job tearing through the field and winning thre titles. We want him healthy.

              So I remind myself it’s a tennis match. I have to remember to see the big picture and keep everything in perspective. That’s what I took from my own health crisis.

              You are my rock here. You never judge me or get upset or misinterpret my words.

              Thank you for that!

            • Hey back My Queen!!…I’m so happy to know that even i am so limited in tennis knowledge compared to u and other dear poster’s but knowing that my presence can give u calm and peace,makes my heart expand like Rafa’s head atm!hehe…Thank u for your nice and sweet words Nny…Insyaallah,i’ll be here for u Nny..remember that okay?

              About Rafa…i also understand and respect your view very very much Nny…we all want the best for him…IMO,Rafa lost to Thiem yesterday because he’s tired..damn tired!..that’snot meant that Thiem is not good..No!!He’s so damn good!!In fact much more so from Madrid…the difference this time was that,Rafa can’t handle him because he’s tired…sure the determination and desire is still there but when you’re physically and mentally matter how much determination and desire you’ve still got,but your body won’t cooperate anymore…they will weakened your mind and body…and that’s what happened to Rafa last nite right?Unnecessary UE’s everywhere!..very uncharacteristic!..that’s a sign of fatigue me thinks.I’m pretty pretty sure,if Rafa is fresh and fit again when they meet..i don’t think Thiem has a chance over Rafa…I know,some might not agree with me but that’s my opinion….

              So,now Rafa has 10 days to rest and recharged his battery back…and Nny! assured barred from injury…Phillipe Chatrier is Rafa’s sacred place..and i think,more than ever he wants back his ‘home’….you agree?

          • NNY, I’ve no issue with Thiem winning the match. We know he could blast his ways though matches. He took three sets to barely beat Dimi at Madrid and three sets to beat Querrey here saving MPs along the way. Do you think both Dimi and Querrey are better than Rafa on clay? Rafa had already proven that when he played well, he could beat Thiem in straight sets, even though Thiem was also blasting his FHs and serving big.

            Rafa had also despatched of Sock, another big FH hitter and big server, in straight sets too. Rafa’s game was off during the QF, misfiring his shots, didn’t serve and return well, more defensive than usual. Thiem might have put Rafa on the defensive no doubt, but Rafa took too long to decide to move forward, where he was winning most of the points whenever he came forward.

            Perhaps Rafa wasn’t feeling it in his game, and that’s why he looked so frustrated. Anyway, it’s over now so let’s wish Rafa all the best at the FO.

        • Yeah exactly, Mira. Djoko in his best year of 2015, had losses too, at Doha, Dubai, Canada, and Cincy on his best surface the HCs. Rafa has already won three titles week after week non stop, he surely has to be not at his best some days.

          Right now, Rafa has to rest and relax and then prepares for the FO. He will have to be in tip top conditions in order to win at the FO.

  4. Thiem gets another shot at Rafa, I don’t think he’ll win this one either – Nadal in two close sets. Djokovic is improving a bit, I think he’ll beat Delpo in three.

  5. Not convinvced of Djokovic’s ‘reviva’ yet. His true test will when he is put to the test by good, aggressive players who force him to go for the corners and make him play a lot of balls. He has doubts and it is in these scenarios that you get tentative and lack conviction.Today is a bigger challenge for him. I hope Delpo can hit some backhands DTL for heavens sake!!

  6. For those who were looking ahead to Novak, Thiem Judy broke Rsda in his first service game.

    • Thiem has come out blasting and is getting the better of Rafa.

      I think ed was exactly right yesterday when she said Thiem is going to continue to try to find a way to beat Rafa.

      I did not want Rafa killing himself to beat Thiem. Right now Thiem has come out firing on all cylinders.

  7. Thiem hitting his CC bachand extremely well. Unleashing his forehand inside-out as well. Attacking Rafa’s forehand! Rafa better start getting depth on his CC forehand and change direction frequently enough.

  8. not serving aggressively enough and not having enough pop on the forehand to counter Thiem’s power. Perfect strategy from Dominic today.

    • Thiem is using his raw power. Rafa has to move him around, not playing from so far back and busy defending.

  9. There goes the first set. Rada down two breaks. This getting ugly. That’s why I always take it one match st a time. Thiem wants to beat Rafa and has come out playing like he can do it. So while others were looking ahead and worrying about Novak, I was worrying g about Thiem.

  10. Rafa is going to receive more pummeling from Thiem and the other remaining players should be beat Thiem today.

    They’re all hard hitting guys, Rafa can’t counter their raw power with his own, has to serve well and move forward more. Rafa playing from too far back, not going to beat Thiem like this.

    • Rafa is getting blown off the court right now and just doesn’t have any breathing room. Thiem does not want to let him get into this match.

  11. Wish I could watch!Can’t believe the score. I expect Rafa to win in the end tho.

    And wow did I underestimate Sasacha…or maybe Milos was injured?

  12. Rafa’s not hitting his backhand like he has been lately. Too much net clearance on average. Missing that penetrative backhand CC.

    • I think he’s trying to as much as he can. It’s just hard to time it with how big and heavy Thiem is hitting the ball. Anyways Rafa gets one break back.

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