Thursday’s Daily ATP Hitter: French Open Semi Rematch in Monte Carlo
Fair play to Novak Djokovic Wednesday, as the former World No. 1 simply outclassed Borna Coric. The young Croat did have his chances — in both sets, arguably — squandering two break chances at five-all in the first and then dropping serve at 5-6 in the second (after working hard to get back on serve).
Eight matches to choose from tomorrow, kicking off at 5 a.m. ET, and — I must say — it’s nice to see both Rafael Nadal and Nole back in action, playing well. Rafa, who looked sensational Wednesday, will look to keep it rolling against young Russian Karen Khachanov. Meanwhile, the Serb is back in action at 6:30 a.m. ET, which leads us to Thursday’s hitter.
Novak Djokovic (-150) vs. Domi Thiem (+120)
Where: Monte Carlo, Monaco
When: 6:30 a.m. ET
Pretty marquee matchup, this, especially for a third round match. Thiem enters this one after barely surviving a nervy first match in Monaco, as Andrey Rublev served for the match in the third set. But, after almost a month-long layoff with an injury, I’m not overly concerned by the young Austrian’s sluggish first match back.
Plus, in a way, Thiem wasn’t as much “sluggish” as Rublev was, well, impressive. The Russian absolutely clubbed the ball from behind the baseline, hitting pacey groundstrokes with great depth, but Thiem handled them well (at least well enough to win). I think that will serve as good preparation ahead of Djokovic, as the Serb edges closer to his form of old. When Djokovic was in his prime, perhaps his most lethal weapon was his shot depth, as he constantly pushed players back on the court.
Prime Djokovic did give Thiem fits. Although Thiem straight-setted Nole at the French last year — just one month earlier, Djokovic washed him 6-1, 6-0 in Rome. Prior to that, Djokovic owned a 4-0 head-to-head record. That said, the days of Djokovic’s invincibility are in his rearview mirror. I think Thiem will come into this match feeling like the favorite, especially on his best surface. Don’t forget that Thiem has made back-to-back Roland Garros semifinals and beat Rafa on the dirt last year.
I stand firm on the fact that Thiem is currently the second best clay courter in the world, after of course Nadal. If he brings his A-game on a clay court — outside of Rafa — not many players can beat him. With Djokovic still feeling his way back to form, I see value with Thiem as an underdog at +120. As I previously mentioned, Novak did look good today against Coric, but Thursday will present an entirely different calibre of challenge.
Thiem bageled Novak 6-0 in the most recent set these two played on clay — at the 2017 French Open. You’ve gotta believe that result still hangs around in the back of Djokovic’s head — and, with a player who has struggled with confidence over the past year — you already know I’m happy to ride with Domi as a dog. Allez!
THE PICK: Thiem +120
Photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports