Barcelona Open 2019: Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem, preview and prediction
In his pursuit of a 12th title in Barcelona, Rafael Nadal will face a stiff challenge in the form of Austria's Dominic Thiem in the semifinals today. Thiem is yet to lose a set in this tournament and he is one of the very few players who has had some success against the Spaniard on clay.
Nadal faced Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter-finals yesterday. The latter gave it everything he had but was unable to capitalize on the big points where Nadal outplayed the German.
The strategy of Struff right from the start of the match was to attack at every opportunity he got. And while that worked in bits and pieces throughout the first set, Nadal finally broke Struff in the 12th game and took the set 7-5.
Struff played well from the baseline, finding the corners and making Nadal run from side to side. But there were some unfortunate errors from both his forehand and his backhand, and that too at crucial moments in the match. He got broken again in the 12th game of the second set, losing the match 5-7, 5-7.
Nadal's game has been improving with each passing day, and by the end of the match he had started hitting his trademark 'banana' forehand winners.
Here's a clip of match-point, which is a good indicator of Nadal's form in Barcelona this year.
In the other quarterfinal, Thiem had to work hard in the first set of his quarter-final match against Guido Pella. Pella is having a dream run on clay this year as he won the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo and reached the final in Cordoba, followed by a quarterfinal appearance at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Thiem proved to be too good for Pella after winning the first set 7-5. While the Argentine defended well up to the middle of the match, he started losing momentum in the second set as Thiem's cross-court forehand and backhand started dominating.
Thiem won the set 6-2 and with it the match.
Head-to-head record between Thiem and Nadal
These two players have faced each other 11 times with Nadal leading 8-3. However, all of Thiem's wins have come on clay, the most recent one being the quarterfinal of the Madrid Masters last year.
Thiem's game actually troubles Nadal as he can return the heavy top-spin of the Spaniard and produce a winner out of it. When Thiem is in full flow it is very tough to stop him as he can produce some magnificent cross-court forehands and backhands.
As far as this tournament is concerned, Thiem is looking in great shape and is striking the ball perfectly. He definitely has the potential to cause some troubles to the 11-time champion with his power and speed.
Nadal on his part is slowly boosting his form on clay and it will be interesting to see how he matches up with the energetic Austrian.
Match prediction: Nadal to win in three sets.