Friday’s ATP Hitter: Can Thiem End Nadal’s Historic Streak?

Friday’s ATP Hitter: Can Thiem End Nadal’s Historic Streak? article feature image

Thursday’s hitter, Kevin Anderson, came through — in sweaty fashion. He fortunately staved off a set point (on Philipp Kohlschreiber’s serve) in the second set breaker before finally getting across the finish line.

“Come on Kevin” sat in the driver’s seat for most of the match, but tightened up attempting to serve out the match at 5-4. When he dropped his serve, I had flashbacks from Wednesday when RBA lost in like fashion. But, thankfully for all of us, Anderson pumped the brakes on his skid and won in straight sets.

And, with that, we look ahead to the four Madrid quarterfinal matches getting underway at 7 a.m. ET.

The top half of the draw will feature Rafa Nadal, the tournament’s No. 1 seed and now winner of 50 consecutive sets on clay — a new ATP record on one surface. Nadal (-1400) will take on Dominic Thiem. The other match on this side: Kevin Anderson (-176) vs. Dutze Lajovic.

On the bottom half of the draw, we find Kyle “Nice Guy” Edmund (-200) vs. Denis “El Shapovalov,” and Sascha Zverev (-280) vs. Big John Isner.

I don’t see tomorrow being a very prosperous day for underdogs. I fancy Edmund to get the best of El Shapo on the dirt, a surface that should suit the Brit far more. Anderson should also outclass Lajovic.

At a price of +250, Isner could be a decent dice roll tomorrow against Zverev, who’s coming off a title win last week in Munich. Get ready for tiebreaks, though, as all of Isner’s sets this week have gone the distance. With Isner winning four of those five breakers, some value lies with the American to serve-bot his way to another win.

Our hitter on Friday comes from the popcorn match of the day between Rafa and Domi. Let’s get to it.

YTD: 45-42 +11.23 units 

Rafa Nadal (-1400) vs. Domi Thiem (+1100)

When: Not before 11 a.m. ET
Where: Madrid, Spain
Surface: Clay
H2H: Nadal leads 6-2

Domi Thiem’s (pictured above, right) match Thursday against Borna Coric was one of the most exciting best-of-three matches of the season. Thiem showed his resilience, bouncing back from a set and a break down to Coric (who served for the match at 6-2, 5-4) to win in a tight third set.

The Croat gave Thiem nothing easy, cracking his groundstrokes and serving big and CLUTCH for the duration of their match. That should serve as great prep for Thiem against an even bigger obstacle today: Rafa Nadal (pictured above, left) and his remarkable streak on clay.

While I’m not sure Thiem is enjoying the type of form required to beat Nadal at this point in time, I do think he can compete. As a result, I fancy the game spread in this one — which currently sits at 6.

That’s a large number of games to cover in a best-of-three match. With the way conditions in Madrid have benefited servers, I think the Austrian can stay within 6.

Thiem served well Thursday, moving Coric off the court with his kick serve out wide. And if he didn’t make so many errors on the second ball he’d hit (usually an open court forehand), his 68% first-serve winning clip would have been even better.

I think Thursday’s match was a turning point for Thiem in the clay season, and I expect him to raise his level tomorrow. Last year, these two played an extreeemely tight match in the Madrid final, which Nadal won 7-6(8), 6-4. I believe Thiem can push Nadal in similar fashion on Friday.

THE PICK: Thiem +6 games (+115)

Photo via Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports