Mutua Madrid Open 2017 Final Preview Rafa Nadal Versus Dominic Thiem

Nadal Thiem

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Tennis’ Clay King Rafa Nadal (4) goes up against its Prince, Dominic Thiem (8), in the Mutua Madrid 2017 final. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

The 2017 tennis season has seen two striking story-lines grab headlines- the revival of Fedal, and the next in line, the likes of Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, stepping up their careers.

Thiem, aged 23,  does not belong to the #NextGenATP, aged between 19 and 22, he belongs to the tennis class year above, the one he leads and made up of Jack Sock, Bernard Tomic and Lucas Pouille, a Generation overshadowed by the one above them, of Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov, and eclipsed by the Big Four, the quartet refusing to give up their seats at the front of the tennis Grand Slam school bus.

With Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov hitting the odd high but mostly struggling with the lows of injuries and slumps, with only David Goffin from their year looking like he might be healthy enough to fulfill his potential, Thiem and his class, and the Next Gen, have moved up a gear, with Thiem leading the way, the youngest member of the top ten, the first of his gen to contest a slam semi, and now the first to reach an ATP 1000 final.


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Fittingly, in his biggest match yet, Thiem, the best 20-something  clay courter out there right now, will meet the best clay courter ever, Rafa Nadal.

The Spaniard has, like Roger Federer this season, put an injury ridden 2016 behind him, and turned back the tennis clock to the days when he ruled not just the clay, but the ATP tour, too, the Spaniard, contesting, in Madrid, his 6th final this season, and due to lead the Race to London whatever happens in Madrid.

Whatever happens will be a remarkable result. If Nadal wins, he would have won three clay events in a row, the 52nd of his career, his 30th ATP 1000 crown, and be, potentially, in the middle of putting together, aged 31 and twelve years after he started putting together such runs, one of the most successful clay runs ever.

If it really is Thiem Time, and the Austrian can pull of a famous win, then we can say Thiem really has arrived at the top of men’s tennis, an ATP 1000 champion, a feat Nishikori, Dimitrov, and Raonic have not managed, and the kind of achievement that could give him the confidence to step up his game one more time at Roland Garros in just over a fortnight.

Thiem certainly looks ready. The Austrian, coming in on the back of losing to Nadal in the Barcelona final, fought off match points to beat Grigor Dimitrov, avenged his Miami loss to Borna Coric, and defeated Pablo Cuevas in straight sets.

Thiem will need to be ready, too- Nadal is playing his best tennis of the season, coming through a shaky close to three hour opener versus Fognini to then go on and defeat Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, and Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

While Nadal’s form versus Djokovic suggests he is feeling on top of his game and unlikely to be stopped in his tracks by an ATP 1000 final rookie, if Thiem is going to break through on his best surface, there is no clay court better to do it at than Madrid. Nadal has won the title ‘ just’ three times since its clay overhaul in 2009, the faster conditions leaving him vulnerable to players executing world class attacking tennis, and those who have beaten him in Madrid- Roger Federer, Fernando Verdasco, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray- are as good as it gets.

Thiem has the game to join them- the Austrian knows how to use his powerful forehand, one handed backhand and transition game to attack Nadal, as he displayed in his 2016 win over him in Buenos Aires, and take time away from him, to stop Nadal getting into a rhythm, to thwart him exploiting the less time Thiem will have to set up his shots, and to prevent the Spaniard attacking his backhand with heavy top spin.

Knowledge, though, is one thing, execution is another. Nadal and the crowd are going to put  a lot of pressure on the 23 year old, who can over-hit when the pressure is on, and Nadal’s experience is likely to be the decisive factor in an encounter which will be for Thiem his biggest match yet and his first day on the ATP 1000 finals job, for the Spaniard, another day at the Big Match office.

Prediction: Nadal to win a tough contest, one which will strengthen his bid for La Decima Part three at Roland Garros even further, and one which will teach Dominic Thiem some invaluable lessons on his way to taking over from Nadal as the Clay Court King further down the line.

The Tennis Review

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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