Nadal v Thiem, Djokovic v Del Potro On Big Friday In Rome
by Sean Randall | May 18th, 2017, 8:44 pm
  • 84 Comments

We are down to just eight at the final prominent pre-French tune-up this week in Rome, and it’s a Big Eight with five guys over 6-foot-5, two former champions and the workhorse Dominic Thiem.

Rafael Nadal leads the way and he’s the clear favorite to win an eighth Rome title come Sunday. Nadal routed Jack Sock today 6-3, 6-4 for his 17th straight win on clay (12 straight sets).

Sock made a slight push to start the second, but Nadal just overwhelmed the American. The backhand was going, the forehand was going and Sock was running on a string.

“There is always room to improve. That’s why I wake up every morning. I go to practice with the motivation to improve something,” said Nadal. “I can keep serving better. I can hit some more winners with the forehand and it’s something that I am working on every day to try and make happen. But it’s obvious that I am playing well and I should be very happy with the way that I am doing things.”

There’s only one guy playing more physical tennis right now than Rafa, and that’s Nadal’s next opponent, Thiem.

The Austrian had to come from a set down to deny Sam Querrey in a thrilling final set breaker 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7), saving three matchpoints in the effort.

Querrey had the match on his racquet but Thiem just is so unrelenting, especially in crucial moments, and the American couldn’t convert.

American did have something to smile about as John Isner used that wicked serve to stun Stan Wawrinka 7-6(1), 6-4. Stan had five chances to break John’s serve, but failed each time. So Stan’s prep is over (unless he plays Geneva) and in three clay events he won a total of two matches. But with Stan, it probably doesn’t mean anything and he’ll likely win the French! Or not!

Novak Djokovic’s wins and losses do mean something and today he had a really good one beating Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard is tough on all surfaces and makes his opponent’s play, and behind a good serving day Djokovic did just that with a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“I feel like today’s match was one of the better ones that I have played this clay court season, but also in the past couple of months,” Djokovic said. “It came at the right time, of course. All the players are aiming to raise their level of tennis as we’re approaching Paris, but especially here in Rome at one of the biggest and best tournaments in the world.

“I like Rome and the conditions here. I have had plenty of success in the past in this tournament. I think it all affects my overall feeling here and I’m ready for the challenge,” the 4-time champ added.

Djokovic now faces Juan Martin Del Potro who ousted Kei Nishikori 7-6(4), 6-3. Using that big forehand of his, Del Potro won his fifth match against Nishikori in six tries, and he did it in straights so after a first round scare against Grigor Dimitrov, he should be fresh for the Serb tomorrow.

“It was amazing,” Del Potro said of the win. “It was like a soccer match for me. I enjoyed the crowd a lot. My feelings are the best when I get onto the court and the crowd is cheering for me. That’s incredible for all the players.

“My game is improving on this surface, which is important for my confidence.. I think I’m not very far away from my highest level, so I’m happy for that.”

In a big boy match, Milos Raonic chopped up Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2. Alexander Zverev continued to show his clay prowess beating Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3 and in a mild surprise, Marin Cilic ousted David Goffin 6-3, 6-4.

“It was a great match for me,” said Zverev. “I think I played very well, was very aggressive from the baseline. Fabio is someone who plays well here. And he beat the World No. 1 a few days ago, so I just felt like I was feeling the ball very well and was very aggressive. It worked out well for me.”

So the quarterfinals are set. On to my picks.

Milos Raonic v Alexander Zverev
It’s the first meeting between the Zverev family and Milos and I like the German here. I think he’s playing better. While Milos has the more potent serve and has the experience, I think Alex moves better on the clay and is the in-form guy. Zverev in three.

John Isner v Marin Cilic
Cilic had owned Isner winning all six of their meetings until last fall in the Paris semis.

“He has been a bit of a thorn in my side. He’s playing well and seems to be serving very well also,” said Isner. “It should be a close match. Not much has separated us when we have played each other in the past.”

So with his recent win, John comes in with a real chance here. Cilic, though, has been playing well of late winning Istanbul so I lean to the Croat to break John’s serve at least once for the win. Cilic in three.

Rafael Nadal v Dominic Thiem
While Nadal has been winning in straight sets of late, Thiem’s been winning in much longer matches, including a 3-setter today against Querrey. And I think that catches up to Dominic in the quarters against Rafa. Thiem is seemingly tireless, but Rafa isn’t seemingly unbeatable on clay, he is unbeatable on clay. Like Madrid, Rafa in two.

Novak Djokovic v Juan Martin Del Potro

Form tells me Del Potro but my gut says Djokovic found something today that will carry over. Head-to-head it’s Djokovic 13-4 including two tough wins this year at Acapulco and Indian Wells and also two wins on the clay. And with the match on clay, to me that tips the scale in favor of Novak who has to be desperate for signature win this spring. Djokovic in two.

FRIDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTRALE start 12:00 noon
WTA – [Q] A. Kontaveit (EST) vs [6] S. Halep (ROU)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP – [16] A. Zverev (GER) vs [5] M. Raonic (CAN)
Not Before 4:00 pm
ATP – [8] D. Thiem (AUT) vs [4] R. Nadal (ESP)
Not Before 7:30 pm
WTA – [9] V. Williams (USA) vs [3] G. Muguruza (ESP)
Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP – J. del Potro (ARG) vs [2] N. Djokovic (SRB)

NEXT GEN ARENA start 12:00 noon
ATP – J. Isner (USA) vs [6] M. Cilic (CRO)
Not Before 2:30 pm
WTA – [15] K. Bertens (NED) vs [Q] D. Gavrilova (AUS)
Not Before 4:30 pm
WTA – [8] E. Svitolina (UKR) or [Q] M. Barthel (GER) vs T. Bacsinszky (SUI) or [2] K. Pliskova (CZE)
ATP – R. Bopanna (IND) / P. Cuevas (URU) vs [4] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA)


You Might Like:
Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal Friday at Rome; Federer Falls, Berdych Double Bageled
Juan Martin Del Potro Has Wins This Summer Over The Current Top 4!
Roger Federer v David Goffin, Dominic Thiem v Philipp Kohlschreiber Friday In Halle
Lucas Pouille Captures First ATP Title, Takes Down Dominic Thiem In Metz
Terrific Thiem Topples Nadal, Awaits Rain-Delayed Djokovic-DelPo Winner In Rome SF

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

84 Comments for Nadal v Thiem, Djokovic v Del Potro On Big Friday In Rome

Willow Says:

Novak in 3, he seems to gradually nearing his best tennis again, looked much more like the old Novak, it will be tight i think, but i doubt Delpo can out run Novak, Rafa in two against Thiem ….


Van Persie Says:

Wow Sascha! First Master SF for him


Van Persie Says:

Isner vs Zverev tomorrow. Zverev should win


Daniel Says:

Thiem a double break up against Nadal.
Checking scores and whats is surprsiin is that Nadal is at 80% forstbserves but won only 7/16 (44%) points on first serve.

Is Thiem returning this good or Nadal just pushing serve?


Anto Says:

I wonder what people think of thiem now. Thiem leading 4-1 double break up.


Anto Says:

Thiem just dominating Nadal.


Anto Says:

If thiem can keep his unforced errors in check along with continuing the aggressiveness he is truly capable of beating Nadal.


Van Persie Says:

Thiem plays very good but this is not Rafa from Madrid. First match from Rafa in Rome, that I watch.


Anto Says:

And now Nadal starting to hit short ball now. He maybe near his best in tennis shot making, but definitely not (near) his mental best.


Van Persie Says:

Perhaps the clay in Rome suits Thiem’s style better…but he plays 1 level better than Rafa atm.


Anto Says:

Nadal has to up his level at least two levels.


Anto Says:

Thiem is also playing good defense.


Van Persie Says:

Has also better serve


Van Persie Says:

2 amazing FH winners from Rafa


Van Persie Says:

Rafa raising his level


Van Persie Says:

Damn Thiem, such UEs


Anto Says:

Thiem giving Nadal opportunities Nadal unable to capitalise


Anto Says:

Finally a break back. Still I believe thiem will have a chance to break Nadal again now.


Van Persie Says:

Let’s see if Thiem closes the set now


Anto Says:

The reason I love Nadal is not his mental toughness or his shot making ability (yes i like these qualities in him), but his never give up attitude, even when he is completely being outplayed. He will just give his all.


Van Persie Says:

Thiembplays with pressure now


Van Persie Says:

If Thiem takes this set, we will have an interrestin 2


Van Persie Says:

Expect Rafa to play like an animal now


Van Persie Says:

Bamos Thiem!


Anto Says:

Lets see if Nadal can find some answers to this very impressive Thiem.


Daniel Says:

Now Thiem’s forst serve stats are bad. 57% first serve winnbut his second serve is great, 9/12 75%. That was what gave him the set.

He has to either improve first serves points won or keep protecting his second serve. Because after he was up 5-1 is 3-1 to Nadal, even tough he won first set.


Van Persie Says:

Thiem missed many 1 serves in the 2 part of the set


Anto Says:

Even though I will be kinda okay with Nadal losing, I was really hoping for a nadal djoko rematch with Nadal winning.


Van Persie Says:

How does Thiem find those angles


Van Persie Says:

Would be happy for Thiem or Zverev to win Rome. Someone from the new generation


Anto Says:

If Nadal gets broken first, I am kinda sure Nadal will lose this match.


fred stone Says:

32, 35 and then 42 seconds for the King of Delay to get his serve off. And the chair umpire says nothing. BS of the highest order.


FedExpress Says:

Hi guys,

after long time i am here again.

Is the umpire paid or what? Nadal wasting so much time on his serve and then he complains afterwards.


FedExpress Says:

Lmfao Nadal


FedExpress Says:

Nadal fist and muscle pumping on every point is an annoying sight.


FedExpress Says:

Thiem should have made the 1st BP. Could haunt him now.


Anto Says:

Unless Thiem makes unforced errors in the curcial moments I dont see Nadal breaking him.


Anto Says:

Bye bye Nadal. Well this just proves just one thing even with whatever improvements Nadal have made, without the speed of his old days, He can very well be beaten with an inspired opponent even on clay.


Van Persie Says:

Thiem is a good contender for the FO


Van Persie Says:

Congrats to Thiem, very well played. Like him more and more.

Commies to Rafans, am sure they are more eager for the FO.


Anto Says:

And finally Theim beats Nadal even without Nadal not playing bad.


Van Persie Says:

Thiem has such a sweet smyle :)


Anto Says:

well I don’t expect Nadal to win the French. Yes he still can win it. But I don’t expect it


Anto Says:

Now i think this loss will be more bad if Thiem goes on to lose the next match who ever he plays.


C!P! Says:

Thiem has a beautiful game ,but it’s a crazy style hit as hard as you can every ball ,that will break him eventually , as it does with all heavy hitters; it’s not a tennis style that it’s reliable long term. For Nadal i think it’s gift in disguise ,more rest for RG, after so many tournaments in a row ,he needs it


Margot Says:

Sensational from Dominator. Pretty damn good from Sascha. Next gen is here alrighty! Hope the final is between these two. Exciting times.
Neither has a weaker wing, both very powerful, excellent serves, fabulous movement and possibly most important off all, have excellent ROS.
Commies to Rafa fans but Dom was absolutely awesome, some of those points, some of those “gets” were simply stunning, also outmuscled Rafa! Wow! .


Giles Says:

Anto. Do you know what you are talking about because I don’t.
More rest for Rafa now.
Vamos Champ!


skeezer Says:

“King of Delay”
Classic. Rack that in the Tennis X archives lol !

One of the only Clay matches watched this year was the last time Rafa and Thiem played each other in Madrid. Thought Thiem was just lacking a little experience but had the technical skills to beat Rafa, and he came close. In Rome he LEARNED and would not let Rafa intimidate him with fists pumps and Vamos’s and the usual annoying tactics of water bottle aligning and delays……, most excellent job there Dominic! Fear of Rafa is gone now…..FO could be very interesting indeed.


Giles Says:

Margot. You’re too funny, NOT!! “Outmuscled Rafa”!!! Lol


Giles Says:

Skeezer. You’re a laugh a minute!
So tell me again why fed is not playing FO??


Daniel Says:

And this proves once again why not even Nadal, the clay GOAt was able to enter RG with all 3 Masters and Barcelona.

He enter with 3 titles many tiems but always a loss or in 2005 when he didn´t play Hamburgo.

2010 was the only year he won all three Masters entering RG, but h skipped Barcelona and if I am not mistaken there was a weak rest between all tourneys.

He is close to 31, if he hasn´t done it in the past hard to do it now, even with “top” competitors down. There is always someone knew and this someone is Thiem who enter the “2 or more wins on clay against Nadal select club”. Proves why he is 4th match wins leader on clay active player. and top 3 contender for RG this year, even more so than Murray and Wawrinka at this point.

Now let´s see who he faces, Djoko or Delpo.

For Djoko this is also greta, if he manages to win the title, which he can now wit Nadal out, he can enter RG with full momentum on his side, beating some quality player (DelPo, Thiem and most likelly Zvrev in finals). And even tough he got beaten handly by Nadal in Madrid, they will enter RG without testing thmeselves too much.

I mention beofre, just 1 good win and it can change things pretty quickly. Djoko better take this chance now. Zverev will be inexperienced in Masters finals and can´t see Isner winning a Masters on clay, just can´t.


Giles Says:

Come on Delpo! Beat the faker!


Okiegal Says:

Love watching the King of Delay! I did my hair, nails and make-up between serves!!! Lol

I believe this tournament will be a toss up on who wins!!

Congratulations to all Theim fans……he’s a good one to get behind! He will be a force to reckon with.

VAMOS to the King of Clay!! Great 2017 so far! Rest up for the Frenchie! 💜💜🐂🐂🎾🎾


gonzalowski Says:

Ooohhh 😣 well let Rafa rest for RG


Kimberly Says:

Mark
My words, if thiem gets Nadal on chartier he is going down in straights. Everyone getting excited about this victory will see. He can believe all he wants but Nadal will show up recharged and ready for Roland garros. I actually think this loss enhances his chances.


AndyMira Says:

Hey Miss Jan!!…U Queen of Delay!..Mr Riley and Mrs Bev is waiting for u downstairs!..And you’re blogging here??


brando Says:

First and foremost: congratulations to thiem on the win. Great guy, well deserved and glad he was the one who beat rafa. Re Rafa: this is 110% the best result for him. The man is nearing 31 and gets the much needed rest that he requires. He stated pre almagro match that he feels tired and now he gets a good 9 maybe 10 days. He’s ready for RG. As he said post Madrid: the work is done its just about self maintenance now. And this loss gives him what he most needs for RG: rest. For RG right now he needs freshness and energy NOT another Rome masters title. Were he to play thiem there he’d win in straight sets since even today on a day thiem was at his best rafa had plenty of chances to flip the match on its head. If ever there was a beneficial loss in tennis: this one is that kind for rafa IMHO.


J-Kath Says:

Re. Kimberley’s forecast – Yes, I agree – if Thiem meets Nadal at FO, Rafa will win. Don’t think the up-and-comers are yet poised to win 5-setters.

AndyMira: I feel rather ignorant – I don’t know the trio to whom you refer ….intriguing.

Okiegal: Re. Hair, nails and make-up….Big Chuckle. (Coincidentally, a small tube of glue needed for a minor repair, burst and splashed my face, hands and nails…still picking it off several hours later). Ugh, ugh.


chrisford1 Says:

VP – “Would be happy for Thiem or Zverev to win Rome. Someone from the new generation.”

Not me, I want to see another couple years from the Big 4.

Alexander and Dom’s time is coming, though..At the least, barring injury, they are Top 10 material and stay there once they arrive.


Van Persie Says:

CF1,

I would love to see Nole winning this, but he did not show much in the last weeks, so that I can hope…

Sincerely, Thiem would deserve this. He put such a fighting spirit in his matches during the last weeks…but ir is sport, you have to earn things, not to deserve them. And I like Thiem, guilty ;)

About Rafa, he is still the huge fave for the FO. He lost just a battle, not the war, as they say :)


Okiegal Says:

@Mira…..They haven’t called me yet, but got to be ready when they do!


Okiegal Says:

@Skeezer…..I am in the great state of California! How about a game of tennis………or how about I treat you to lunch? Would love to meet the infamous Skeezer in the flesh!!

Sincerely, Okie


Giles Says:

Hey Brando. Welcome back. Hope you’ll stay awhile. Missed you! :)


Margot Says:

Agree, Rafa lost battle, not the war and is still very much the favourite for RG. We need to see how “next gen” cope with best of 5
But, I find it really exciting that at last a couple of the kids are stepping forward.
I like Dom and Sascha and I don’t feel guilty at all!


Van Persie Says:

Margot,

I feel guilty as I would almost root for Dom tomorrow, shoukd he play Nole :D
Guess I would be happy for each of them winning. For Nole would be a boost of confidence, for Dim a reward for his work.

P.S. It is a bit boring to see only the Bif 4 in finals over and over again…since a decade. LOL


Van Persie Says:

Okie,

thank you for the congrats, if I was also meant :)


Margot Says:

VP: although of course I want Andy to win everything, there are some players I mind him losing to, less than others.


RZ Says:

Hi everyone, I’m back from my trip (well not quite home but back in the U.S. and back on the grid). Seems like my powers of absentia didn’t help Andy at all but are now working their magic on Thiem. Team Thiem!

Is anyone setting up a racquet bracket? If not I will set one up tomorrow (keep in mind this means tomorrow evening/night for those of you in Europe).


Daniel Says:

Wow, did not expecting Djoko 5-1 agaisnt DelPo.

Seems Djoko is peaking at the right time. Let´s see if he closes this match and how he will fare tomorrow against Thiem.

But if he reaches final, he will be super favorite regardless of who he plays and finally getting back to a big tourney final and one where he has a lot of success in the past, 4 titles I think.


AndyMira Says:

@OKie!!…U should challenge Skeezer to paint a nail or bleach a hair to white or who’s the quickest to put a make up on…then your chance to win is pretty high but NOT a tennis match!!!!!…hehehehawhaw!…


Danica Says:

Yup, four wins and two finals in Roma for Nole. But darn it, the rain spoilt the match. Not good. What if they have to complete it tomorrow? :(


Willow Says:

Congrats to Dominic Thiem, didnt see the match because of work, but no complaints as i think Rafa needs a break before the FO starts, not an excuse for the loss though, hope DT goe on to win the whole thing now ….


James Says:

“Nextgen” will be here when one of them wins a slam. Winning 7 best of 5 matched is a whole different ball game from winning a few best of 3. Zverev, Thiem, Krygios – all have promise. Maybe even Goffin. But they are very far away from winning a slam yet.


Daniel Says:

Danice,

Winner will have to play the remaining of the match and the other match against Thiem in the same day.

For Delpo is brutal because he would have to win basically 2 matches. For Djoko, if things goes his way will be less than a set and than he can go against Thiem, who had a lot more matches than Djoko this season.


chrisford1 Says:

James – The normal way of establishing a “star” has arrived is high ranking and several titles won. Titles not necessarily coming from “Slamcount” being the be all and end all.
For example, Novak had “arrived” when he beat #’S 1-3 at Toronto in 2007. All the Masters wins and wins over Rafa and Fed put him as the solid #3 even though he “only won one Slam” (which Fed fans dismissed as a fluke win against Fed in the SFs, with Rafa hurt and Tsonga ‘wanting it less than That Serb clown”).
And Andy was “there ” years before he won a Slam from his Master’s 1000 title tally, the Olympic gold, and all the finals at Slams he did make.

To me, Nextgen is here if you want to push it even further up, because Thiem, A Zverev, AND Nick Kyrgios have already claimed Big 4 scalps and are pushing into QFs and Semis already in the big events – Masters 1000 and above.


chrisford1 Says:

I’m thinking Thiem ought to try snatching up Thomas Muster and Djokovics fitness and development coach – Gebhard Gritsch (GG). But Gritsch is in high demand and at 60, may opt out of the Tour grind to mentor a national team or do university lectures, or extend the “Gritsch Way” in tennis academies.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

That was an absolute beauty performance from Thiem. He dominated, start to finish. Rafa was not at his absolute best- I’ve been saying, Rafa is playing great, but not unbeatable, as he was at Monte Carlo.
Thiem gave one of the best performances of the year so far. I’ve been critical of him for staying so far back, but today he was making shots from so far out of the court- that I’ve only ever seen Rafa make. Really, a historically great performance from Thiem.
I hope thats not a one-timer. I hope he can maintain this level. Its sick.

Novak is dominating Del Potro. I had high hopes, based a lot around the improved 2H BH. But Novak has been hitting unrelentingly to DelPo’s backhand, and DelPo has hit almost entirely slices back. I don’t understand exactly whats different about Novak’s game, because DelPo has been hitting 2H topspin backhands all tournament. Del Potro is lucky to have this rain delay. Would love to see him come up with some solutions for tomorrow, but if Novak wins, it just adds spice to French: if he lost today, how many would consider him a legit threat there?


skeezer Says:

“The normal way of establishing a “star”…”
Folks trust me, this is as abnormal as it gets.
When someone continues to create there own fantasy of criteria to justify a stance, well, then you have “fake news”.


skeezer Says:

@TV,
Observed the same re; delpo
He’ll go down quickly if he continues to slice that bh. Maybe his wrist is the reason. Doesn’t matter if he is playing Novak or Constant, the same result will happen.


chrisford1 Says:

Tennis Vagabond – “But Novak has been hitting unrelentingly to DelPo’s backhand, and DelPo has hit almost entirely slices back. I don’t understand exactly whats different about Novak’s game, because DelPo has been hitting 2H topspin backhands all tournament’

Good observation, TV. I think it has to do with Djokovic hitting deep and hard, and playing the angles so that Delpo cannot set and do backhand topspin. Only slice.


Wog Boy Says:

Last two times Delpo beat Nole with mostly slicing and dicing, IW 2013 and Rio 2016, particulary IW, Nole didn’t have an answer for Delpo’s slices, Delpo just applied same tactics again.
Nole was never good nor he liked players who sliced a lot, doesn’t give him a rhythm and he has to produce his own power, can’t use oponents one, this time around hasn’t worked for Delpo but the match is far from over, plenty of time for Delpo to rethink his strategy, thank you weather gods;)
BTW, haven’t seen the match, don’t watch Nole’s matches anymore;)


James Says:

Lets see how many of these “nextgen” win a slam this year, and how many geriatrics (above 30 – Big 4 are all above 30, Fed is almost dinosauric) win. My guess is all 4 slams go to geriatrics. My guess is the nextgen will remain NEXTgen. Raonic was a nextgen once. So was dimitrov.


Margot Says:

Tennis Vagabond:
I agree with you about Dom, he is stupid distance behind the base line, but my word, the power he can generate from there, on both wings, is astonishing. He needs an extra coach board to address this court position. Very vulnerable to drop shots, although he is blooming fast.
I believe Becker is looking for a new position…;) Joking aside it would be a pretty good fit.
Dom reached semis of RG last year, am wondering if he can go a step further this.


Leave Your Comment [guidelines]

Top story: Poll: Who's Your Early Favorite To Win The French Open?
Most Recent story: 5 Thoughts On Novak Djokovic Hiring Andre Agassi