It was definitely not the outcome that Djokovic would have wanted in his comeback, as he was stopped short on Thursday by the 7th seeded Dominic Thiem. The 24 year old Austrian was able to overpower the former #1 rated player 6-7(2-7), 6-2, 6-3 at the Monte Carlo Masters to advance to the quarterfinals.
Novak found himself in trouble early on, as he got down 0-3 in the first set and then 2-5 facing set point on his serve. He was able to bail himself out with a volley at the net but still faced 2 more set points later on in the set. The Serb’s perseverance helped him in clawing his way back though, as he was able to fight off set points and take the first set in the tiebreaker.
The next 2 sets saw tight games, but it was Thiem who was the one who managed to come up big in the key points. Throughout the match it was Novak’s backhand that seemed to fail him, and it was only fitting that on matchpoint he hit a backhand shot that sailed just out to give the match to the Austrian.
The former #1 has been plagued with a right elbow injury for the last 2 years and finds himself at number 13 in the rankings. He hasn’t been able to make it to a quarterfinal since Wimbledon last year.
For numbers sake, head to head, Djokovic still has the edge at 5 to 2, while Thiem is an impressive 10-1 on clay this year.
Meanwhile, Thiem will next face Nadal in the quarterfinals, as he made easy work of Karen Khachanov. Last year, Thiem was arguably Nadal’s biggest clay court competition as they played each other 4 times, with Nadal winning 3 of those encounters.
Thiem does have some hope, as he did shock Nadal in the Rome quarterfinals last year. “It’s (a) way better feeling if you go against him and know that you’ve beaten him already on this surface” said Thiem.
We don’t have long to find out as they will play on Friday in what is expected to be a very competitive match.
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