A weekend without Rafael Nadal in the semi finals of a clay tournament seemed unlikely at the start of the week but it’s what we have with four men left in the draw. Two of the top young stars in Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov will close out play on Saturday while Dominic Thiem plays Kevin Anderson to open singles play in the afternoon.
Last year, Dominic Thiem was the only player to beat Nadal on clay and we may well see the same in 2018 after his shock win over the Spaniard in straight sets 7-5 6-3. He held firm against Nadal, even after giving up break leads in both sets – bouncing back with immediate break backs in both instances. “I had to play an extraordinary match, and that’s what I did.” he said. “I moved well [and] I was physically tough. But always against him, there are long rallies. You get out of breath. My groundstrokes were the best, they were very aggressive. I think I really hurt him with them… I didn’t make too many stupid errors. That was important.”
Anderson toughed out a three set victory over Dusan Lajovic, beating the Serbian 7-6 3-6 6-3. Lajovic was fresh off a confidence boosting win against Juan Martin Del Potro and had been playing at a high level than that which you’d expect from a player currently ranked 95. The win for Anderson meant he ended a disastrous 0-10 streak in Masters 1000 quarter finals. “I knew the opportunity existed today. I thought first step was putting myself in that position. I was able to do that. Going out there today, I just really focused on what I needed to do. Thinking too much about previous results is not going to do me too much good, outside of the fact that, sure, there was motivation to get through.” he said.
Having failed to convert his Nadal victory into a title last year, Thiem will not want to miss out again on his first Masters 1000 title. The 0-6 record he currently has against Anderson looks daunting but they are yet to face off on a surface other than hard court.
Prediction – Dominic Thiem in three sets