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Why Medvedev Could Crack The Top 10 On Clay

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Why Medvedev Could Crack The Top 10 On Clay

Russian seeks first clay-court title Sunday in Barcelona

Daniil Medvedev began the 2019 European spring clay-court swing with a 2-11 record on the surface in his career. So perhaps it’s fitting that after winning eight of his first nine matches on clay this season, it’s on the red dirt that the Russian is in good position to make a major move in the ATP Rankings, perhaps even into the Top 10.

With his run to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell final, Medvedev has now put himself in strong position to climb higher than his current career-high of World No. 14. If he defeats Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s final, Medvedev will pass 13th-ranked Karen Khachanov to become the Russian No. 1.

But the real opportunity for improvement will be throughout the rest of the clay court season. Medvedev lost in the first round at Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros last year, so he is only defending 30 points through Paris. Of the six players ranked directly ahead of the Russian, none of them are defending fewer than 200 points.

ATP Ranking Points To Defend Through Roland Garros

 Player  Current Pts  Pts To Defend Through RG  W/Pts Through RG Dropped
 8. Juan Martin del Potro  3,225  900  2,325
 9. John Isner  3,085  415  2,670
 10. Stefanos Tsitsipas  3,030  205  2,825
 11. Marin Cilic  2,845  720  2,115
 12. Fabio Fognini  2,840  460  2,380
 13. Karen Khachanov  2,685  200  2,485
 14. Daniil Medvedev  2,625 (2,825 w/ Barcelona win)  30  2,595 (2,795)

* Points up to date including points both dropped and earned this week

With all the points players are defending during this clay swing taken off, Medvedev would move into 10th even if he loses Sunday’s final. World No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro, who will move up to eighth on Monday since Stefanos Tsitsipas did not defend the 300 points he earned by reaching the Barcelona final last year, is defending 900 points through the rest of this clay swing. A massive 720 of those points will come at Roland Garros.

Miami finalist John Isner, who will move to ninth on Monday, is defending 415 points through Roland Garros. The American suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in that final against Roger Federer, which will keep him out through at least Madrid. Isner told three weeks ago that while he hopes to return in Madrid, he will only compete at that ATP Masters 1000 tournament if he feels he is in satisfactory ‘tennis shape’. 

Medvedev is in some of the best form of any player on the ATP Tour. The Russian, who has made the semi-finals or better at five tournaments this year, owns a Tour-leading 25 wins, six ahead of second-placed Tsitsipas and Guido Pella. His semi-final victory against Kei Nishikori on Saturday was his third against a Top 10 opponent in the past two weeks.

“[It’s more] evidence that I could beat these Top 10 players. I can play at the same level. I can stay there physically, mentally,” Medvedev said. “It gives you a lot of confidence. If I manage to beat guys like Kei in the semi-finals of an ATP 500 event, then I can do a lot and hopefully I will.”

The only player in the group who is ranked just ahead of Medvedev (up until Del Potro) who has earned comparable results on clay this year is Italian Fabio Fognini, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion. But since Fognini made the Rome quarter-finals, Geneva semi-finals and the fourth round at Roland Garros last year, he is defending 430 more points than Medvedev through the clay-court Grand Slam. 

Editor’s Note: Medvedev will not make a straight add of 500 points to the 2,505 he began the week with if he defeats Thiem for the Barcelona title due to the number of countable results he already has at the ATP 500 level. Instead, he will replace a previous semi-final result at this level, which means he would add 320 points to his current total, netting out at 2,825 points on Monday.

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Nadal denied chance to extend own record for winning same title by Thiem

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Rafael Nadal’s hopes of extending his own record by winning an ATP tournament for the 12th time were ended when he was beaten by Dominic Thiem in the Barcelona Open semi-finals.

Nadal has triumphed in Barcelona 11 times, a mark he has also hit at the French Open and Monte Carlo Masters.

But his hopes of adding to his record ended in a 6-4 6-4 loss to Thiem, who he beat in the 2017 Barcelona final.

The Austrian will meet 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final.

Had Nadal won against Thiem he would have had the opportunity to match Martina Navratilova’s professional tournament record of winning 12 times at the now-defunct Avon Championships of Chicago.

The 32-year-old had appeared on course to win the Barcelona Open for the fourth time in succession – he went into the match having won 46 of the 47 sets he had played in the tournament’s final two rounds.

Instead 25-year-old Thiem, who lost to Nadal in a one-sided French Open final last year, will have the opportunity to win a second title of the year having beaten Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells last month.

Russian Medvedev beat fourth seed Kei Nishikori 6-4 3-6 7-5 in their semi-final on Saturday.

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Nadal: 'I Made A Big Improvement This Week'

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Nadal: ‘I Made A Big Improvement This Week’

Spaniard loses in semi-finals for second consecutive week

Rafael Nadal entered his Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell semi-final on Saturday perfect from that stage on at the ATP 500 tournament (22-0). But despite losing to Dominic Thiem in straight sets, the 11-time champion leaves his home event with his head held high.

“After this week my confidence is back,” Nadal said. “I really believe that I made very good improvements to create a good base to try to achieve my goals during the next couple of weeks.”

It’s just the third time that Nadal has not won either Monte-Carlo or Barcelona in the same year (2014-15) going back to 2005. But Nadal knows that he did not give away the match. Instead, Thiem took it.

“He played great. He did all the things that he had to do very well and with big success. I am happy the way that I played from the baseline. Starting the point in good position or in bad position, changed a lot… but the rest of the things have been positive and as I said before, congrats to him, he played great,” Nadal said. “He’s a great guy and great player and I’m happy for him. I wish him all the best.”

Last week, Nadal lost in the semi-finals of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters against Fabio Fognini. That was perhaps a more surprising defeat since Thiem has now beaten the Spaniard on clay in four consecutive years. Fognini has two clay-court wins against Nadal.

“[It’s a] big difference. Against Fognini I played the worst match probably in 14 years on clay. Today I played a good match of tennis. It [was] a good level of tennis this afternoon. I played against a great opponent,” Nadal said. “Fognini is a great opponent too but I was not a competitive player. Today I was competitive, and I enjoyed the match. I really felt [that I was] competitive for the first time in a way that I want to feel myself. And as I said before I am happy and I am confident that I made a big improvement this week.”

Nadal knows there are things he could improve even more. The World No. 2 won just 43 per cent of his second-serve points against Thiem, while the Austrian captured 69 per cent of his second-serve points.

“The serve [was] an important part of the match this afternoon,” Nadal said. “I didn’t serve well at all, especially the second serve. So when I started to miss the second serve, I really lost a little bit of the confidence on trying to go for a good first serve, because I was without confidence on the second, so that affects the first.”

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Thiem (4-7) joins World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (7-16) as the only players to defeat Nadal on clay at least four times. The 25-year-old recently won his first ATP Masters 1000 title (Indian Wells) on a hard court. So when a reporter asked Nadal if Thiem could one day climb to the top of the ATP Rankings, the Spaniard did not dismiss the notion.

“Why not? Depends. Everybody can be No. 1. Not everybody, but there are a couple players who can be No. 1. It is not an easy thing. But of course it depends on the results he will be able to have. He’s a good player. He’s a hard worker. So I would love to see him [be] No. 1,” Nadal said. “I like him in all terms, as a tennis player, as a hard worker, as a person. So I wish him all the very best for his future, but not everything. I hope to be ready to compete against him and to beat him in the next couple of weeks.”

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Thiem Hands Nadal First-Ever Barcelona SF Loss

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Thiem Hands Nadal First-Ever Barcelona SF Loss

Austrian to play Medvedev for ATP 500 title

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Dominic Thiem stuck to his aggressive game plan against Rafael Nadal to beat the 11-time Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell champion 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday and reach the ATP 500 final.

It’s the fourth time in as many years Thiem has beaten Nadal on clay, and the first time Nadal has lost in the semi-finals or finals of his home tournament. The Spaniard had been 22-0 in matches and 46-1 in sets during Barcelona semi-finals and finals.

You May Also Like: Medvedev Rallies To Stun Nishikori In Thriller, Reach Barcelona Final

But Thiem, who was the only player to beat Nadal on clay in 2017 and 2018, played fearlessly once more against the top seed, pinning the Spaniard behind the baseline and pounding inside-out forehands. He joined Novak Djokovic as the only players to have beaten Nadal on clay four times.

“I’m always super proud if I beat him because he’s the best player ever on this surface, and it’s always very special to beat him here on clay. We always had great matches in the past, and also today was very good and I was more lucky today and I got the win,” Thiem said.

The 2017 finalist (l. to Nadal) will face Russian Daniil Medvedev with his third ATP 500 title on the line (2016 Acapulco, 2017 Rio). Medvedev beat No. 7 Kei Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to make his first clay-court final.

The 23-year-old leads the ATP Tour with 25 wins, including eight on clay (8-1). Before last week’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Medvedev was 2-11 on the red dirt. Thiem leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 1-0, a three-set win last year at the St. Petersburg Open.

“It’s such a traditional tournament. I loved to play the finals here two years ago, and of course I try to go one step further tomorrow. But Daniil is I think in the best shape of his life. If I see the names of who won here, this tournament, of course I would love to be there as well,” Thiem said.

Thiem started quickly, breaking when Nadal tossed in a loose service game at 2-2. Nadal double faulted twice, including at 30/40.

Thiem had four more break points as Nadal served at 2-4, but the Spaniard saved them all during a 14-minute game. But as the Spanish fans smelled a comeback, Thiem avoided any slump and held to take the opener.

The Austrian was in attack mode all match, delivering deep, heavy balls to Nadal, who struggled to take control in baseline rallies. And at the net, Thiem was happy to put the point away, winning nine of 12 net points.

Thiem broke once more in the second and dug himself out of trouble at 4-3, 15/30, and again while serving for the set at 5-4, 0/40. Thiem hadn’t faced a break point all match until the final game, but saved all three, including the third with an ace.

Did You Know?
Nadal had won 18 consecutive matches in Barcelona. His last loss came during the 2015 third round (l. to Fognini).

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Osaka withdraws from Stuttgart semi-final

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

World number one Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from her Porsche Tennis Grand Prix semi-final against Anett Kontaveit with an abdominal injury.

The Japanese said she felt pain in her left abdomen during her victory over Donna Vekic in Stuttgart on Friday.

Osaka, 21, said she had to “roll out of bed” on Saturday morning and was unable to lift her upper body.

Estonian eighth seed Kontaveit will play either Petra Kvitova or Kiki Bertens in Sunday’s final.

“It’s an ab strain, something that I’ve had before,” Osaka said.

“Thankfully, because I’ve had it so many times, I am able to tell what it is and I know what to do.”

Florida-based Osaka will remain in Europe to have the injury assessed.

  • Live scores, schedule and results

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Krajinovic Dominates On Serve To Reach Budapest Final

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Krajinovic Dominates On Serve To Reach Budapest Final

Serbian to face Berrettini for the trophy

Filip Krajinovic will try to become the ninth first-time ATP Tour titlist this year after defeating Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2, 6-2 in one hour on Saturday to reach the final of the Hungarian Open in Budapest.

The Serbian lost just six service points and did not face a break point to reach his second tour-level final, having also made the championship match at the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters, an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, as a qualifier. Krajinovic dropped just two service points in the second set, breaking Herbert four times in the match.

“I didn’t expect this coming from qualies. Playing in a final, it’s a big achievement for me,” Krajinovic said. “I think I played really well today. I served really well and I’m really happy. I will enjoy tomorrow.”

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Perhaps fittingly, Krajinovic qualified in Budapest like he did two years ago in Paris, dropping only one set in six matches. He is the third qualifier to make an ATP Tour final this season, joining Brayden Schnur (l. in New York) and Daniel Evans (l. in Delray Beach). He now has 15 tour-level wins this season, setting a personal-best after earning 14 victories last year.

“It’s never easy. Herbert is a Top 50 guy. He’s very dangerous,” Krajinovic said. “This is not the surface for him. Today was a little bit slow, so it was good for me and I took every chance.”

Krajinovic will face 2018 Gstaad winner Matteo Berrettini for the trophy. The Italian needed one hour and 19 minutes to dismiss Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-2.

“I have to realise what I did today. I have to recover for this match. It was a short match, but very intense,” Berrettini said. “I have to stay focused and prepare for tomorrow.”

Berrettini arrived in Hungary on a five-match tour-level losing streak dating back to his second-round loss in Marseille more than two months ago. But he has won three of his four matches in straight sets to reach his second ATP Tour final. This will be Berrettini and Krajinovic’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head battle.

“I’m serving really good,” Berrettini said. “I hope tomorrow my weapons — my forehand and my serve — will help me to beat him. He’s a great guy. He’s playing really good coming from the qualies, so he has a lot of confidence. He was Top 30, so he knows how to play tennis. I think it’s going to be a great final.”

Daniell/Koolhof Reach Doubles Final 
Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof reached the doubles final with a come-from-behind 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 win against Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies. In the final, they will meed third seeds Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski. Koolhof has now made three consecutive finals with three different partners, partnering Stefanos Tsitsipas to the Miami championship match and Robin Haase to the Monte-Carlo final.

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Medvedev Rallies To Stun Nishikori In Thriller, Reach Barcelona Final

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Medvedev Rallies To Stun Nishikori In Thriller, Reach Barcelona Final

Russian to face Nadal or Thiem for the title

Daniil Medvedev leads the ATP Tour in hard court wins since the start of last season. But if his impressive three-set semi-final win over two-time Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell champion Kei Nishikori on Saturday is any indication, the Russian is plenty comfortable on clay, too.

Medvedev reached his first clay-court ATP Tour final with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 triumph against Nishikori, battling from a break down in the decider to eliminate the World No. 7 after two hours and 25 minutes. He will face recent BNP Paribas Open titlist Dominic Thiem, who ousted 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, for the trophy.

“It almost [slipped]. He was up a break in the third and I felt that I lost the momentum. The match was going away from me,” Medvedev said. “I’m really happy that I managed to hold my nerves, to try to come back, and I managed to come back. I’m just happy to be in the final.”

Before last week’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Medvedev owned just two tour-level wins on this surface (2-11). But after reaching the semi-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament and making the Barcelona final with the loss of only two sets, the 23-year-old has eight clay-court wins this year alone (8-1).

Medvedev leads the ATP Tour this year with 25 wins, six ahead of second-placed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Guido Pella, both of whom are 19-9. The Russian is also tied for the second-most tour-level victories overall since the start of 2018, joining Novak Djokovic with his 68th triumph. Only Alexander Zverev has won more matches with 70.

Most Wins Since Start Of 2018

 Player  Record
 Alexander Zverev  70-26
 Novak Djokovic  68-16
 Daniil Medvedev  68-31
 Roger Federer  66-12
 Dominic Thiem  66-26

“I think I’m getting more consistent on every surface and it’s good for me,” Medvedev said. “I hope I can continue improving every day. That’s my goal and I hope I can beat more players like this because that’s when you improve, when you beat these top players.”

Nishikori had won the pair’s only previous clay-court FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year in Monte-Carlo. But Medvedev showed his improvement on Pista Rafa Nadal, using his two-handed backhand well from deep in the court to neutralise Nishikori’s offence, at some points making it feel like he had an answer for everything the Japanese threw at him.

But late in the second set Nishikori began to dictate play with his forehand, stepping inside the court to strike the ball with interest as Medvedev was left retrieving from well behind the baseline. The two-time champion immediately broke in the third set, leaving Medvedev frustrated as errors began to creep into his game.

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But the Russian locked in again, breaking back and breaking for a second time in the third set on his first match point when Nishikori hit an inside-in forehand into the net.

“I knew I just had to continue. Kei is all about this. He can have amazing moments, but he can have some moments in the match when he will miss something. So I needed to win as many games as I can when he was good. I managed to not go double-break down, otherwise I probably would have lost the match. That was the key.”

Did You Know?
Medvedev has only 30 ATP Ranking points to defend through Roland Garros.

Familar Foes To Meet For Doubles Crown
Second seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares will play third seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for the Barcelona doubles title. This will be the ninth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting between the two teams, both of which qualified for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals.

Murray and Soares have won four consecutive matches against the Colombians, including this year’s Sydney final and last year’s Cincinatti championship battle.

Murray/Soares beat Raven Klaasen and Joe Salisbury 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 on Saturday, and Cabal/Farah defeated Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 6-2, 12-10.

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Millennium Estoril Open: When Is The Draw & More

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Millennium Estoril Open: When Is The Draw & More

All about the ATP Tour 250 tennis tournament in Estoril, Portugal

Portugal has had a place on the ATP Tour calendar since 1990, and the Millennium Estoril Open has continued that tradition starting with its inaugural edition in 2015. Last year, Joao Sousa became the first Portuguese-born player to celebrate a tour-level title on home soil. 

Sousa returns to defend his ATP 250 title in 2019, and will face competition from the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, recent Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils and Alex de Minaur.

Here’s all you need to know about the Estoril tennis tournament: when is the draw, what is the schedule, where to watch, who won and more. 

You May Also Like: Read & Watch: Portugal’s Crowning Moment: Sousa Reigns In Estoril

Established: 2015

Tournament Dates: 29 April – 5 May 2019 

Tournament Director: Joao Zilhao

Draw Ceremony: Saturday, 27 April at 3:00pm

Are You In? Subscribe To Get Tournament Updates In Your Inbox

Schedule (View On Official Website)
* Qualifying: Saturday & Sunday at 12:00pm
* Main draw: Monday – Tuesday at 12:00pm, Wednesday – Friday at 1:00pm and 6:00pm, Saturday at 1:00pm
* Doubles final: Sunday, 5 May at 1:00pm
* Singles final: Sunday, 5 May not before 3:30pm

How To Watch
Watch Live On Tennis TV 
TV Schedule

Venue: Clube de Tenis do Estoril ·
Main Court Seating: 3,700

Prize Money: €524,340 (Total Financial Commitment: €586,140) 

Tickets On Sale: Buy Now

View Who Is Playing, Past Champions, Seeds, Points & Prize Money Breakdown

Honour Roll (Open Era)
Most Titles, Singles: Richard Gasquet, Nicolas Almagro, Pablo Carreno Busta, Joao Sousa (1)
Most Titles, Doubles: Scott Lipsky (2)
Oldest Champion: Nicolas Almagro, 30, in 2016
Youngest Champion: Pablo Carreno Busta, 25, in 2017
Lowest-Ranked Champion: No. 71 Nicolas Almagro in 2016
Most Match Wins: Pablo Carreno Busta (13)

2018 Finals
Singles: Joao Sousa (POR) d Frances Tiafoe (USA) 64 64   Read & Watch
Doubles: Kyle Edmund (GBR) / Cameron Norrie (GBR) d Wesley Koolhof (NED) / Artem Sitak (NZL) 64 62  Read More

Hashtag: #EstorilOpen
Facebook: @millenniumestorilopen
Twitter: @estorilopen
Instagram: @estorilopen 

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BMW Open By FWU: When Is The Draw & More

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

BMW Open By FWU: When Is The Draw & More

All about the ATP Tour 250 tennis tournament in Munich, Germany

The BMW Open by FWU is the first of four German tournaments on the season’s ATP Tour calendar, contested in Bavaria’s picturesque capital city of Munich. Past winners include former World No. 1’s Roger Federer (2003) and Andy Murray (2015). Germans Michael Stich (1994) and Tommy Haas (2013) have also triumphed here.

World No. 3 Alexander Zverev will go for the three-peat at the 2019 edition of the ATP 250 event, and he will be joined in the field by three-time champion and fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber, whom he defeated in last year’s final.

Here’s all you need to know about the Munich tennis tournament: when is the draw, what is the schedule, where to watch, who won and more. 

Established: 1990

Tournament Dates: 29 April – 5 May 2019 

Tournament Director: Patrik Kühnen

Draw Ceremony: Saturday, 27 April at 11:00am

Are You In? Subscribe To Get Tournament Updates In Your Inbox

Schedule (View On Official Website)
* Qualifying: Saturday & Sunday at 11:00am
* Main draw: Monday – Friday at 11:00am, Saturday at 11:30am
* Doubles final: Sunday, 5 May at 11:00am
* Singles final: Sunday, 5 May not before 1:30pm

How To Watch
Watch Live On Tennis TV 
TV Schedule

Venue: MTTC Iphitos
Main Court Seating: 3,800

Prize Money: €524,340 (Total Financial Commitment: €586,140) 

Tickets On Sale: Buy Now

Get Munich Tennis Tickets

View Who Is Playing, Past Champions, Seeds, Points & Prize Money Breakdown

Honour Roll (Open Era)
Most Titles, Singles: Philipp Kohlschreiber (3)
Most Titles, Doubles: Wojtek Fibak (3)
Oldest Champion: Tommy Haas, 35, in 2013
Youngest Champion: Guillermo Perez-Roldan, 17, in 1987
Lowest-Ranked Champion (since 1979): No. 111 Martin Klizan in 2014
Most Match Wins (since 1974): Philipp Kohlschreiber (33)

2018 Finals
Singles: [1] Alexander Zverev (GER) d [6] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 63 63   Read & Watch
Doubles: [2] Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Rajeev Ram (USA) d [3] Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Alexander Peya (AUT) 63 75  Read More

You May Also Like: Murray Captures First Clay Crown In Munich

Hashtag: #BMWOpenbyFWU
Facebook: @bmwopenbyfwu 
Twitter: @BMWOpenbyFWU
Instagram: @bmw_open_by_fwu

Did You Know… The International Tennis Championships of Bavaria was first held in 1900, but the BMW Open by FWU was first staged at Munich’s Iphitos Tennis Club in 1974. 

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Preview: Nadal, Thiem Both Going For History In Barcelona

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2019

Preview: Nadal, Thiem Both Going For History In Barcelona previews the must-see semi-final

Together they have played some of the most memorable matches of the past two seasons, and every time they stare across the net from each other, it’s blockbuster tennis.

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will meet for a 12th time on Saturday in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell semi-finals (Nadal leads 8-3; 7-3 on clay). The Spaniard has never lost a Barcelona semi-final (11-0) and is going for a record 12th Barcelona title this week. Nadal remains the only man to have won a tournament 11 times (Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Roland Garros).

Thiem, meanwhile, is looking to extend a streak of his own and join one of the most elite clubs in tennis. The Austrian has beaten Nadal on clay the past three seasons (2018 Madrid, 2017 Rome, 2016 Buenos Aires), and if he beats Nadal again on Saturday, he’ll become only the second player to have defeated the Spaniard four times on clay, joining a club of one: Novak Djokovic.

You May Also Like: Nadal Holds Off Struff, To Face Thiem Next

“It’s always one of the biggest challenges possible in tennis, to play Rafa on clay. To play him at a tournament which he’s won already 11 times, with his own crowd at his back, with his Spanish crowd. It’s going to be unbelievably tough,” Thiem said. “But we’ve had some great matches in the past, and I think we are both playing quite well, so I hope that’s the same case tomorrow and I think we could expect a good match.”

Both looked convincing in their quarter-finals. Thiem spent 63 minutes taking the first set from Brasil Open champion Guido Pella of Argentina, but then worked quicker in the second to advance 7-5, 6-2. Nadal was pushed in both sets by the big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff but moved on 7-5, 7-5.

The World No. 2 should be particularly pleased with how he’s improved throughout the tournament. Before Nadal lost his opening set against Leonardo Mayer, he had won 30 consecutive sets at the ATP 500 event.

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He was disappointed with how he “competed” against Mayer, but, in straight-sets wins against David Ferrer and Struff, the Spaniard has upped his first-serve percentage and played with more energy, inviting the home crowd to roar behind him.

Thiem has looked close to flawless throughout the week, winning all six sets against No. 25 Diego Schwartzman, No. 57 Jaume Munar of Spain and Pella.

How well Thiem is able to dictate play – think blistering one-handed backhands and crosscourt forehand winners – should tell the story of their semi-final. The Austrian played two of the best matches of his life against Nadal in Rome in 2017 and Madrid last year. Thiem was the only player to beat Nadal on clay those seasons.

He’s catching up to Nadal on hard courts as well, as shown by their marathon five-set and four-hour, 49-minute quarter-final at last year’s US Open. But if Thiem is a shade off his best, and Nadal can raise his defensive game a notch, it could be the Spaniard, despite his slow start in Barcelona, moving onto his 12th final.

I will try the same tactics like I did in Madrid and two years ago in Rome, to be very aggressive, of course. That’s the only way to beat Rafa, to be very aggressive and to play a lot of winners,” Thiem said. “But of course here I think it’s a little bit tougher here than in Madrid. Madrid are great conditions for me, a little bit of altitude and I think even though he’s won it five times, it’s not his favorite tournament I guess. But I’ll try similar [tactics] tomorrow.”

It’s also tougher to beat Nadal in the Barcelona semi-finals because it’s never be done. In the semi-final and final stages of the ATP 500 event, Nadal is 46-1 in sets and 22-0 in matches.

Did You Know?
Nadal is 421-37 (.919) on clay during the past 18 seasons.

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