ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Dominic Thiem edges Novak Djokovic to meet Rafael Nadal

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ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Dominic Thiem edges Novak Djokovic to meet Rafael Nadal

As we expected, the third-round clash between a former champion Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo 2018 was one of the matches of the tournament, with the Austrian scoring a 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory in two hours and 29 minutes.

Dominic had a mediocre 3-4 score in Monte Carlo before 2018, struggling at the season's first clay Masters 1000 event and finding the right form that year to set Rafael Nadal clash. The Austrian 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 wasn't enough to emerge as a winner, losing 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, hitting 36 winners and 33 unforced errors and leaving Novak on a negative 20-40 ratio, as he struggled to find the right shots from his backhand.

Djokovic had a small advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, while Thiem forged the lead in the mid-range and most extended exchanges, hitting with more depth and energy when the match reached the critical phase.

Dominic did everything right in the first eight games, firing deep and strong groundstrokes that kept Novak out of the comfort zone and reduced his return power. Thiem held at love with a forehand winner in the opening game and broke Novak's serve with another powerful forehand in game two to open up an early advantage.

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 great 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, starting all over from set number two and earning a break in the fifth game after Novak's weak backhand, fending 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. This time there were no mistakes from the Austrian, who clinched the set with a hold at 15 in game eight, entering the final set as the favorite as he saved more strength for the encounter's closing stages.

Nothing could separate them in the opening six games of the final set, but it was evident that Novak struggled to keep 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 before Dominic grabbed the break after the Serb's another backhand error to book a place in the last eight against Rafael Nadal.