There once was a time that Rafael Nadal was invincible at Monte-Carlo between 2005 and 2012 the Spaniard won the tournament eight years in a row and then Rafael Nadal ran into Novak Djokovic in the 2013 final and lost his first match there in 8 years and since 2012 hasn’t won the title either winning just one Masters 1000 event in the last thirteen events he has played.
The last time Rafael Nadal exited Monte-Carlo in round three was back in 2003 when he lost to Guillermo Coria after getting into the tournament through qualifying but this time looking to defeat the Spaniard is an in-form 22 year old called Dominic Thiem who is currently sat on a win/loss of 26/6 for the season with two titles to his name and I certainly believe he will be top 10 come the end of the season.
They have met before on the tour and both matches have been significant. The two first met at the 2014 French Open and Nadal defeated Thiem on his way to lifting the title which was as well his last Grand Slam title to date. Nadal and Thiem played each other on the clay in Buenos Aires with Thiem winning 6-4 4-6 7-6 in what was one of the matches of the year!
Every tournament Nadal plays the spotlight is on him, his performances are scrutinised and a number of tournaments over the last 18 months or so have finished with questions asked over his current form. I think it is important for Nadal to look for the serve out-wide with kick on it which worked well against Thiem in Buenos Aires but what I felt let him down was the length of the rallies as it felt like Thiem was given time to settle and get involved where as on the clay Nadal is a different animal and has the skills to finish points from all over the court!
Thiem on the other hand has a great chance of winning by getting great depth on court. Anything short and Nadal will pounce on it and despite the Austrian being a good defender defending against Nadal can be tough. I’d like to see him push Nadal back and take control like he did not too long ago in Buenos Aires.
My prediction is a little straight forward. I honestly believe that this will be a win for Thiem over three sets. Nadal was once the ‘King of Clay’ however the King seems to have lost his crown, it be great to see him get back to his best but it will be tough and he will be hoping Thiem begins the match as he did against Struff in round one.