Roger Federer will face the toughest test of his clay return so far, taking on Dominic Thiem for a spot in the semi finals of Madrid. Thiem is among the front runners to win in Paris, backed by his early clay form this year – which includes a title in Barcelona.
His win over Fabio Fognini in the previous round extended his winning streak to seven, with the most notable win coming against Rafael Nadal in that run to the Barcelona title. Despite wins over the Spaniard yearly, Thiem still sees the clay scene as Nadal and then a bunch of others below – including himself. “I think after him, there is a small group of players which can be, which can go very far at each clay-court tournament as well and I think I’m in this group as well.” he said, pre-tournament.
Federer had to save two match points in a wild three setter with Gael Monfils, eventually winning out 6-0 4-6 7-6 to move on. It seemed like he would ease past a Frenchman for the second set running after the first set but Monfils fought all the way, only being denied by a serve and volley from Federer on the first match point and committing an error on the second. ““Anything is sort of possible. The very good, the very bad, you know. But it’s tough to just come out and play fantastic tennis. I also have to come to terms with how to play on clay again, what’s normal, which points to lose and which points to win again,” Federer said afterwards.
Thiem has to be placed as the favourite for now, with Federer unproven against top class opposition on the surface after so long away. Thiem leads the head to head 3-2 currently with one of those wins coming on clay back in 2016, the last year Federer played on the surface.
Prediction – Dominic Thiem in three sets