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

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

  1. Well Rafa has done his best here by breaking and holding. Now Thiem will get another shot at serving for the first set.

  2. NNY, you speak too soon; Rafa gets a few games back and is now 5-4 down. He’ll fight no matter what. We’ll see what Rafa can do from here.

    • Lucky,

      I am just frustrated for Rafa. I am still watching and supporting him but I was nervous for this match.

      • There gies the first set. Did I still speak too soon? I was not looking ahead to Movak here. I was worried about this match. For good reason.

  3. Let’s see how Rafa fights back now. He’s upping his game too late, insisting on rallying with Thiem from so far back. Also, he’s quite poor in his serving at the start of the set, losing his serve immediately, probably having problems adjusting to the wind.

  4. 90% returns landing inside the service box, not enough aggressive serving, passive forehands (relatively). Backhand, not bad but lacking the penetration he was getting last week.

    Rafael must go for more on the forehand, work the angles whenever possible and come to the net.

    Thiem is becoming a ball bashing machine (in a positive sense). Note that his ball is NOT like Soderling’s or Delpo’s. They are SO heavy! He has one of the best forehands on clay right now. Today, he is swinging more freely and getting success.

    • Thiem and Sock have the biggest topspin FHs now, come with pace too.

      Rafa as he ages, can’t match them now in pace and topspin.

  5. If Rafa is still keen on winning this match, he should be fighting back in the second set and not lose heart. Vamos Rafa!

  6. I dont mind today’s loss. Gives hime 2 extra days rest. If a defat has to come, it better be here than RG.

  7. Rafa has a far more diverse game than Dominic. He really needs to use that variety. The foundation is always out-hitting his opponents from the baseline but Thiem has so much power on his shots at the moment and rafa’s not really feeling it.

  8. Why so much shanking?? When Rafa gets to 40-30 in his service game, it becomes so hard for him to win the next point to close the game, he always has to let it go to deuce before holding serve! His serve is not so reliable today.

  9. He’s going to outplay Thiem more often at the net. Would like to see more of those net exchanges

  10. Crazy commentator here said Rafa wasn’t tested like this on clay this year! Feel like asking him ‘are you sure?’

    Rafa had a harder time vs Foggy at Madrid, and was also tested by Kyle at MC.

  11. Rafa nervous guys!..He knows Thiem can give him so much challenge and Thiem proved it big time on court today…Good thing Rafa’s mental strength still intact..

  12. Thiem’s on fire but honestly Rafa is not putting him out of comfort zone. Making him look unplayable.

  13. FINALLY he gets the desired returns in play, opens up the court and shoots forehands DTL! deuece

Comments are closed.

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