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Nadal vs Thiem ATP Barcelona Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Nadal faces Thiem in blockbuster clay-court duel

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 27 Apr 2019
  • Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem is live from Barcelona on Saturday, 27 April from 4:00pm local time/ 3:00pm BST
  • Nadal leads 8-3 on head-to-head
Rafael Nadal.

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem meet in a blockbuster clay-court duel on Saturday, as they battle for a spot in the Barcelona Open final.

While Nadal has been the undisputed King of Clay for well over a decade, Thiem is seen as the heir apparent to the kingdom, and the understudy has been chipping away at the throne in the last couple of seasons.

Thiem has beaten Nadal on clay in each of the last two seasons- he stopped the Spanish great in Rome in 2017, and in Madrid in 2018- in the only blemishes on Nadal's near-perfect record on the surface in those two seasons. 

Can the Roland Garros finalist dethrone Nadal in his stronghold of Barcelona on Saturday? There's arguably no better time to play Nadal on clay, as the great Spaniard isn't quite operating with the ruthlessness that had marked his dominance on the surface in the last couple of seasons. Nadal was barely losing games on clay in 2017 and 2018, but he already lost a match in 2019, just a tournament and a half into his clay-court campaign, and is struggling to put away Guido Pella, Leonardo Mayer and Jan-Lennard Struff.

Injuries have again played a big part in Nadal's season. After missing the concluding part of last season due to a variety of injuries- knee, abdomen and ankle- he had a delayed start to 2019 due to a thigh problem. He recovered in time for the Australian Open, where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the final. Nadal lost to Nick Kyrgios in an acrimonious Acapulco second-round clash, and withdrew from a scheduled Indian Wells semi-final against Roger Federer due to a knee problem.

He didn't play again until Monte Carlo, where he beat Roberto Bautista-Agut, Grigor Dimitrov and Guido Pella in an unusually scratchy route to the semi-finals, before losing to Fabio Fognini, thus missing the chance to become the first man in the Open Era to win 12 titles at a single tournament.

His relative struggles have continued into Barcelona, where he needed three sets to get past Leonardo Mayer in the second round. The 11-time Barcelona champion was better in his 6-3 6-3 victory over David Ferrer in the third round, but he was again pushed hard by Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter finals. Nadal couldn't break free from Struff for much of the match, but he raised his game towards the end of both sets to complete a 7-5 7-5 victory, finishing off with an outrageous running forehand pass down the line.

“It was a pressure match because he's a very aggressive player, difficult to be on rhythm with him. I'm happy for the victory, happy to find a way to win that match and I hope to be ready for the semi-finals," Nadal said.

He may need to step it up a few notches if he is to get past Thiem on Saturday.


Thiem has not exactly had a great season, but he's had one great tournament at Indian Wells, where he defeated Roger Federer in the final to claim his maiden Masters 1000 title. It's quite ironic that his biggest success has come on hard courts, rather than his more favoured clay.

Thiem has actually been very ordinary on clay this year- he was 2-2 in South America, and was beaten by Dusan Lajovic in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters, bringing a 3-3 record on clay into the Barcelona Open. Outside Indian Wells, Thiem is only 4-6 for the season. Two of those wins came at a semi-final run at the ATP 250 meet in Buenos Aires, while the other victories were in Melbourne and Monte Carlo. He failed to cross the opening rounds in Doha and Miami.

The Austrian has played well in Barcelona though, coming through a tasking route without dropping a set to earn a shot at Nadal on Saturday. Thiem opened with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman, before out-battling Spanish young gun, Jaume Munar 7-5 6-1 in the third round. The Austrian then came through another very tough one against the in-form Guido Pella in the quarter finals on Friday, coming through a rigorous, quality first set, before pulling away with a 7-5 6-2 victory.

“It's always one of the biggest challenges possible in tennis to play Rafa on clay”, Thiem said of his next match against Nadal, “to play him at the tournament which he won already 11 times, with his own crowd in the back, with his Spanish crowd. So it's going to be unbelievably tough. But we had great matches in the past, and I think we are both playing quite well so I hope that's the same case tomorrow, and I think we can expect a good match".

Nadal owns an 8-3 record against Thiem, 7-3 on clay, and naturally goes in as a favourite in this match, but Thiem has beaten the great man on the dirt in each of the last two seasons, and with the great Spaniard still not performing at optimum level, the heir apparent has got an opportunity to claim another big win over the King. When he beat Nadal in 2017 and 2018, the game plan then was very simple- he was ultra-aggressive, continuously muscling winners past Nadal, and he has got to do the same again on Saturday if he is to get the win.

Nadal, of course, has got gears to shift through, and if he reaches anywhere near his best, Thiem has got no chance, but the Spaniard’s best has deserted him lately, leaving an opening for Thiem to go on and grab another win on Saturday.

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem is live from Barcelona on Saturday, 27 April from 4:00pm local time/ 3:00pm BST

*Geo-restrictions apply. Streams available to customers with an active balance


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Nadal vs Thiem ATP Barcelona Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Nadal faces Thiem in blockbuster clay-court duel

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem go head-to-head on Saturday as they battle for a spot in the Barcelona Open final. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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