Nadal, Thiem set for rematch

Only four days after their epic Madrid Open final battle, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are set to lock horns again, this time in Rome in the quarter-final stage of the Italian Open.

Nadal leads the head-to-head with Thiem 4-1 but on Sunday’s evidence, Thiem certainly has the weapons to cause him trouble. In fact, right now, it’s hard to see anyone else but Thiem beating the ‘King of Clay’.

The Spaniard is well aware of Thiem’s capabilities and so, despite being 17-0 on clay and in pursuit of a fourth consecutive ATP title, is not getting ahead of himself.

“There is always room to improve,” Nadal said after beating 13th seed Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday.

“That’s why I wake up every morning. I go to practice with the motivation to improve something.

“I can keep serving better. I can hit some more winners with the forehand and it’s something that I am working on every day to try and make happen.

“But it’s obvious that I am playing well and I should be very happy with the way that I am doing things.”

Thiem has never won an ATP Masters 1000 event and will be desperate to do so. He again showed his penchant for pressure as he saved three match points to grind his way past Sam Querrey on Thursday.

Rome 2017 ? #mygame

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“I think he’s not the biggest clay-court specialist, but he really played well,” Thiem said of Querrey.

“I saved match points, so it could easily have gone the other way.

“I’m happy that I beat a tough opponent today.”

Nadal and Thiem face off at 22:00 (HKT) on Friday.