After a phenomenal performance against the in-form Frenchman Gael Monfils in the third round where he saved two match points, Roger Federer now turns his attention to the quarter-final against the Austrian Dominic Thiem. This match won't be easy either, as Thiem is in the form of his life and is coming off a title at the Barcelona Open.
Thiem also won the last time these two met, in the Indian Wells final in March. Even though that was on hardcourt and not clay, Federer will likely have the same problems against Thiem in Madrid today.
Against Monfils, Federer attacked the net frequently. Even though he lost a few points in the process, the tactic worked out in the end as Monfils started to leak errors while trying to pass Federer.
But if Federer uses the same strategy against Thiem, he might end up getting burned. Thiem has a lot of variety and he can counter well from the baseline as well as from the net, not to mention his lethal accuracy while hitting passing shots.
Federer didn't look too confident from the back of the court as he was not able to generate the required pace or depth on his groundstrokes. That was the reason why he chose drop shots, backhand slices and net approaches as his plan B in both his matches so far - against Gasquet and Monfils.
If Thiem is able to attack Federer right from the start, he will win the battle of court positioning and make Federer play from a position he is not comfortable. Also, Federer's first serve percentage is not encouraging as it was a mere 58% in the last match; a similar number might prove costly against Thiem.
Once again, getting to good start is crucial for the Swiss as it would be a mammoth task to come back from a break or a set down. Thiem is looking stronger than ever and will likely run away with the match if he gets a head-start.
Federer will be hoping for a dip in form for Thiem at some point in the match, because the Austrian's peak level on clay is too high at the moment. Thiem has substantially improved his baseline game and Federer doesn't stand a chance if he doesn't try something new like he did against Monfils.
Thiem leads the head-to-head against Federer 3-2, and should be favored to come out the victor again today.
Prediction: Dominic Thiem - 60% of success, Roger Federer 40% of success.