With Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic already in the semi-finals, Rafael Nadal will look to join his fellow rivals in the last four with a victory over Dominic Thiem. Thiem aims to make a hard court slam semi-final for the first time in his career having made just one quarter final prior to this.
Thiem’s partnership with Nicolas Massu continues to work wonders and there is no surprise that the Austrian has made a marked improvement on hard courts since that began. This result is just the latest in a host of good runs on the surface and it will be interesting to see how he fares in New York later in the year. He was dominant in his fourth round win over Gael Monfils, never facing a break point in the 6-2 6-4 6-4 win. “I think that I played my best match so far of this Australian Open. A very, very good feeling,” Thiem said after. “The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and then was managing to hold my serve well.
Nadal was given a scare by Nick Kyrgios in round four, needing to win two tiebreaks on his way to a 6-3 3-6 7-6 7-6 victory. He was generally in charge on serve, winning 85% of points on his first serve. While broken twice, many of his service games went untroubled and he won the key points in both tiebreaks. While the closeness of the rivalry between Kyrgios and Nadal is somewhat overblown, there is no doubt that he inspired to play his best tennis on occasions by the Aussie. “What I had to do is play my best tennis. When I go on court, you can try to think about a couple of things, but at the end what really matters is to play well,” Nadal said. “I know if I am playing my tennis and I am able to do it well, I am probably going to have my chances. If not, it will be much more difficult.”
Nadal has lost four times to Thiem and has been troubled by the Austrian in the past but it has been a different matter at slams with Nadal winning all five of those matches. It is still going to go down to who plays best on the biggest points and Nadal is always going to win that argument right now. However, a fast improving Thiem could well pick up the shock victory if he continues his hard court form throughout this one.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in five sets