By Ricky Dimon
The entire third-round schedule at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters will be played on Thursday. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are aiming for spots in the quarterfinals, with respective showdowns on their hands against Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta. Another intriguing clash features Dominic Thiem and David Goffin.
Ricky previews the action and makes his picks.
(14) Alexander Zverev vs. (4) Rafael Nadal
Nadal and Zverev will be facing each other for the third time in their careers on Thursday. Their two previous meetings have not disappointed. Nadal prevailed 6-7(8), 6-0, 7-5 at the 2016 Indian Wells Masters, where Zverev famously botched a simple volley on his match point. The 19-year-old , who actually turns 20 on Thursday, came close again at the recent Australian Open before succumbing 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 as Nadal eventually made his way to the title match. Roger Federer ended the Spaniard’s run in Melbourne and bested him again at the Indian Wells Masters (fourth round) and Miami Masters (final). Nadal has otherwise been solid this season, with a 20-2 record against foes not named Federer following his 6-0, 5-7, 7-3 win over Kyle Edmund on Wednesday.
Although it is still early, arguably no one has been more impressive in Monte-Carlo than Zverev. The world No. 20 is through to third round without the loss of a set and he did not even come close to losing set in blowouts of Andreas Seppi and Feliciano Lopez. Zverev is 13-6 for a 2017 campaign that includes a title in Montpellier and a quarterfinal shpwing in Miami. This will not be easy for Nadal, but he should be more consistent in his second clay-court match of the season and maintain the level that was on display in his first set against Edmund.
Prediction: Nadal in 2
(6) Dominic Thiem vs. (10) David Goffin
Thiem and Goffin will be colliding for the 10th time in their careers and for the 10th time since the start of 2014. The head-to-head series stands at 6-3 in favor of Goffin, but Thiem has won two of their three clay-court contests after getting the job done 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-1 in the 2016 French Open quarterfinals. They most recently squared off earlier this year at the Australian Open, with Goffin prevaling 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2.
Thiem admittedly played too much tennis in 2016, did the same earlier this season during the Aussie summer, and was clearly still running on empty in Melbourne. The Austrian should be well-rested for the clay-court swing, though, because he lost his opening match in Miami to Borna Coric and skipped last week’s tournaments in Marrakech and Houston. He opened in Monte-Carlo with a 6-3, 6-2 rout of Robin Haase on Wednesday. Goffin also earned a first-round bye as the 10th seed before beating Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-1 in a match that he trailed 4-0 and 5-1 in the first set. The Belgian is 20-7 in 2017 with runner-up finishes in Sofia and Rotterdam. Goffin may have the edge in current form, but Thiem is clearly at his best on clay and he should win his third straight at Goffin’s expense on this surface.
Prediction: Thiem in 3
(13) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
More than three months into the year, Carreno Busta is ahead of Djokovic in the race to London–and it isn’t even close (No. 9 to No. 25). Djokovic fell early at the Australian Open to Denis Istomin and in both Acapulco and Indian Wells to Nick Kyrgios before being sidelined from Miami with a right-elbow injury. Perhaps back on track now, the world No. 2 crushed Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a Davis Cup rubber earlier in April and scraped past Gilles Simon 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on Tuesday. Simon served for the match in the third set before Djokovic recovered and eventually survived in two hours and 31 minutes.
The only previous encounter between these two competitors also came in the same round of this same Monte-Carlo event three years ago, when Djokovic cruised 6-0, 6-1. Carreno Busta is obviously a much better player now, up to a career-high ranking of No. 19 in the world while consistently getting seeded for slams and Masters 1000s. The Spaniard is 16-9 this season with a semifinal performance in Indian Wells and a runner-up finish on the clay courts of Rio de Janeiro. Although this will be far more competitive than their 2014 tilt, Djokovic–assuming he is 100 percent–should have gotten a wake-up call from Simon and thus turn in a better account of himself on Thursday.
Prediction: Djokovic in 2
Topics: 10sballs.com, Alexander Zverev, ATP Monte Carlo, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Men's tennis, Monte Carlo Masters, Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Novak Djokovic, Pablo Carreno-Busta, Rafael Nadal, Ricky Dimon, Sports, Tennis News