Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem
In one year, the tables may be turned when these two face-off on clay (particularly if Thiem wins this match). However, right now we have a younger player trying to establish himself on his best surface versus the best player ever on this surface. Thiem did unseat Rafa in Rome only to letdown in his next match versus Novak Djokovic. Will the same dynamic work in reverse? I don’t think so. Thiem has had a day to rest and mentally adjust to his latest big win. Thiem’s coach has openly talked about the obstacles between Thiem and the #1 ranking. That is something I like. It shows that Thiem is hungry enough to pursue the top spot. Could he throw the Big 5 off at some point? Thiem beat Rafa in Rome, Nole in Paris, and beat Roger in 2016 on grass. He could be the one at the forefront of the next wave.
Does that mean he beats Rafa a second time on clay in 2017? I don’t think so. I think he will hustle and fight. I think Thiem will be less overawed than he was last year in his first major semifinal appearance. Still, Rafa has dominated his draw and had days off between matches. Rafa may have been a bit leg weary in Rome, but that is likely not the case here.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-2