Dominic Thiem and David Goffin renew their rivalry and will battle for a first ever Monte Carlo Rolex Masters quarter-final spot on Thursday.
Close friends and top 15 stars Dominic Thiem and David Goffin clash for the eighth time on tour in the third round of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on Thursday, with both players aiming to reach a first quarter-final at the picturesque Masters 1000 tournament in Monaco. Thiem has won their last two meetings on clay, including a big match in the Roland Garros quarter-finals last year, however Goffin prevailed in their last encounter in the Round of 16 of the Australian Open in January. There will be no secrets as Thiem and Goffin take to court around 2.00pm local time on Thursday (1.00pm BST).
After compiling a stellar record over the clay season last year, Thiem is now tasked with the pressure of defending all those points while also trying to build on his 2016 results. Thiem began the 2016 clay season with a third round exit in Monte Carlo to eventual champion Rafael Nadal - a result he’s now at least replicated here - but with a final in Munich, a quarter-final in Rome, a title win in Nice and a semi-final at Roland Garros, the Austrian will want to accumulate as many points as possible early on.
It’s well documented how Thiem overplayed last season, and by the time he qualified for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, he was completely gassed and devoid of any energy. Thiem’s poor run of form continued to begin 2017, with the 23-year-old failing to win back-to-back matches in Brisbane and Sydney, while he was upstaged by Goffin in a tame fourth round exit at the Australian Open. Disappointing losses to Nikoloz Basilashvili and Pierre-Hugues Herbert followed in Sofia and Rotterdam, but Thiem’s love of clay shone through in a title triumph in Rio de Janeiro, where he won the silverware without dropping a set.
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But apart from a solid run to the quarter-finals of Indian Wells (falling to Stan Wawrinka in a third set tiebreak), Thiem suffered more poor losses, namely to Sam Querrey in Acapulco (which might not be so bad in hindsight due to Querrey beating Nadal to win the title) and Borna Coric in the opening round of Miami. However we all know Thiem is a different beast on clay, and after making a successful transition to the surface earlier this year to win in Rio, the Austrian is aiming to do the same in Monte Carlo. He certainly started with a bang, losing just four points behind his first serve in a clinical 6-3 6-2 win over Robin Haase.
And with two significant wins over his third round opponent on clay last season, Thiem will be confident of reaching a first Monte Carlo quarter-final.
David Goffin (Photo by YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images)
World No. 14 David Goffin is hoping to recapture some of his blistering early-season form in Monte Carlo, and judging by his first two matches, the Belgian is well on his way to doing just that. Goffin lost just three games in a clean 6-2 6-1 dispatch of Davis Cup teammate Steve Darcis in the opening round, while he weathered an early storm by former top 10 player Nicolas Almagro to finish strongly in a solid 7-5 6-1 triumph to set up this third round meeting with Thiem.
Goffin played some outstanding tennis to begin the season, becoming the first man from Belgium to make the Australian Open quarter-finals and backing up that run by reaching consecutive finals in Sofia and Rotterdam. Goffin was a bit unlucky to run into on-fire opponents in all three of those defeats - Grigor Dimitrov twice in Melbourne and Sofia and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Rotterdam. Nevertheless, those results propelled Goffin into the top 10 for the first time for a brief period, but those defeats did further illustrate that the 26-year-old is prone to being overpowered by better players in big matches.
Surely a little deflated from losing six straight ATP finals after those Sofia and Rotterdam runner-up showings, Goffin’s level dipped as he headed over to North America, falling in the second round to Sam Querrey in Acapulco and the Round of 16 at Indian Wells and Miami to Pablo Cuevas and Nick Kyrgios respectively - tournaments where he made the semi-finals last year.
But, like Thiem, Goffin has played some of his best tennis on clay, including making his grand slam debut on the surface back in 2012 at Roland Garros and becoming the first lucky loser since 1995 to reach the fourth round of a major. Goffin also made his first grand slam quarter-final at the French Open last year (losing to Thiem), while he also advanced to the last eight at the Rome Masters.
It’s an intriguing match-up between players who excel on clay and know each other’s games extremely well. When playing at their best, I tend to give Thiem the edge in this match-up, especially on clay. Thiem simply has more weapons and can do more damage from the baseline, while Goffin’s strengths lay in redirecting the ball and using swift angles to his advantage. There’s really not much between them, but if Thiem plays well I think he edges this.