After a topsy-turvy Wednesday that saw Novak Djokovic lose his first match, order was restored on Thursday at the Monte-Carlo Masters.
In the marquee match of the day, Rafael Nadal avenged his loss in Buenos Aires to Dominic Thiem by defeating the young Austrian, 7-5, 6-3. The 80-minute first set was absolutely thrilling, with Thiem taking an early 3-1 lead before Rafa tied it up. Thiem was the better player in the opening set, except Nadal saved 15 of 16 break points and converted one of his own on his third chance as Thiem served at 5-6 to force the tiebreak.
Thiem also led by a break in the second set, but Nadal quickly got it back and it was clear the 8-time champ had taken out his opponent’s legs (and Thiem also has dealt with a foot issue). Though Thiem has a fantastic, heavy one-handed backhand, he wasn’t getting to balls fast enough to take a full cut. With a steadier diet of slices coming back his way, it was Nadal taking charge of the rallies, extracting more errors from an increasingly erratic Thiem.
Continuing to look strong following his return from injury, Roger Federer had no such trouble against a far easier opponent. Roberto Bautista Agut continued his history of posing no threat to Federer, who rolled 6-2, 6-4.
Federer will face familiar foe Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round. As for Nadal, he’ll face another stiff challenge, this time against Stan Wawrinka, who thumped Gilles Simon, 6-1, 6-2. Rafa owns their head-to-head, although Wawrinka won their last meeting on clay back in Rome last year. The winner there is probably the favorite for the championship.
In the other Friday matchups, Andy Murray and Milos Raonic will face off after each surviving brutal three-setters, over Benoit Paire and Damir Dzumhur, respectively, while Gael Monfils keeps getting easier draws. He had no trouble with Jiri Vesely, the man who defeated Djokovic, and next takes on Marcel Granollers after the veteran upset David Goffin.