As we expected, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic played one of the matches of the tournament in Monte Carlo 2018. Thiem and Djokovic met in the third round, and the Austrian scored a 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory in two hours and 29 minutes.
Thus, Dominic advanced into the quarter-final and set the quarter-final clash against Rafael Nadal. Thiem had struggled at the season's first clay-court Masters 1000 event in the past. He had scored only three wins in the Principality before 2018, and he played well that year to enter the last eight.
Dominic lost serve only once but had to battle for every point against Novak, who played on a very high level while his body could endure the efforts. The Serb made an impressive return in the opening set, but it was not enough to emerge as a winner.
He lost serve twice in sets two and three to hit the exit door, although with clear signs of improvements from what he had shown in Indian Wells and Miami. It was the second win for Thiem in a row against Novak after Roland Garros 2017, and he earned it after hitting 36 winners and 33 unforced errors.
Dominic left Novak on a negative 20-40 ratio as a former champion struggled to find proper shots from his backhand. Djokovic had a slight advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, while Thiem forged the lead in the mid-range and most extended exchanges.
The Austrian hit with more depth and energy when the match reached the critical phase to emerge at the top. Dominic did everything right in the opening eight games, firing deep and strong groundstrokes and keeping Novak out of the comfort zone.
Thiem held at love with a forehand winner in the opening game and broke Djokovic's serve with another powerful forehand in game two.
In 2018, Dominic Thiem defeated Novak Djokovic in three sets in Monte Carlo.
The Serb saved a set point on serve at 2-5 with a superb volley and two more in the next one on the return to break back when Dominic hit a smash long.
The advantage was now on Djokovic's side, and he took a tie break 7-2 with five mini-breaks, converting the first set point after Thiem's double fault. The Austrian stayed focused and started all over from set number two.
He earned a break in the fifth game after Novak's weak backhand and fended off a break chance in the next one with a forehand winner to cement a break and move 4-2 up. Djokovic gave the set away to save energy for the decider, netting a backhand in game seven to fall 5-2 behind and allowing his rival to serve for it.
There were no mistakes from the Austrian this time, as he clinched the set with a hold at 15 in game eight to introduce a decider. Nothing could separate them in the opening six games of the final set. Still, it was evident that Novak struggled physically to keep the pace with the younger opponent.
He was 40-15 up in game seven before Thiem eventually got the break that pushed him 4-3 in front and closer to the finish line. The Austrian confirmed it with an ace in game eight, and Novak was serving to stay in the match, with no room for further errors.
That proved to be the longest game of the encounter, and the Serb wasted three game points. After the Serb's backhand error, Dominic grabbed a break to book a place in the last eight against Rafael Nadal.