After emphatically knocking out defending champion Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem resumes his rivalry with Rafael Nadal, where he'll look to become only the third player to beat Nadal in French Open history. On the other hand, Andy Murray takes on Stan Wawrinka in a rematch of last year's semifinal.
The French open has reached the crucial stage and every battle is a key battle. But we have selected the best of the best battles from today and given our predictions for these matches. The predictions are sourced from the newest fantasy game on the block – Nostragamus. If you want to make your predictions and win prizes, click here.Dominic Thiem vs Rafael Nadal
Dominic Thiem takes on Rafael Nadal for the fourth time on clay this year, with Nadal having won the first 2 meetings and Thiem winning the last one. Since 2016, they have met 5 times on clay, with Rafa winning 3 times. However, one could argue that Thiem has improved leaps and bounds and it was clearly evident in their match in Rome, where Thiem handed Nadal his first (and only) defeat on clay this season. Thiem is 17-4 on clay this season, having lost 2 of those 4 matches to Nadal. Nadal, on the other hand, is 17-1 on clay in 2017, the only loss being his match against Thiem at Rome, 2 weeks ago. Thiem would be coming into this match with his confidence at an all-time high after thrashing defending champion Novak Djokovic in the Quarter-finals. Nadal, on the other hand, played only 10 games in the Quarter-final, after his opponent Carreno Busta retired due to a wrist injury.
What should Thiem do to beat Nadal?
For Thiem, the equation is pretty simple. He has to be at his very best for the entire duration of the match and has to execute his game plan to perfection. That arises the next question. "What's the gameplan Thiem should use to beat Rafa?” Thiem finally looked like he found the right gameplan to beat Rafa when he came up against him in Rome. In each of their 6 previous meetings, Thiem stood a good 10-feet behind the baseline, giving Nadal way too much time to execute his shots. Nadal neutralized this plan and Thiem found it difficult to sustain his energy and hence lost the next 3 matches they played. However, in Rome, Thiem took the ball on the rise, taking time away from Nadal and this turned out to be a highly successful plan for him as he managed to beat Nadal in straight sets on that occasion.
On the right (in Madrid), we see Thiem standing way far behind the baseline while returning Nadal's serve whereas on the left (in Rome), we see Thiem taking the ball on the rise, hence taking time away from Nadal in the process. This will be one of the keys to victory for Thiem when he faces Nadal later today. Thiem also caught Nadal out with his ripping single-handed backhand several times in Rome, and he would definitely be looking to do more of the same in today's match-up. The difficult part for Thiem would be to sustain this gameplan for the whole duration of the match without dropping his level and intensity.
What should Rafa's gameplan be?
As far as Nadal is concerned, he will just be looking to do the same things he has done in his two victories over Thiem in the last 2 months. In both Barcelona and Madrid, Rafa pinned Thiem on the backhand side, and finally unleashed his forehand on the wide open court. Rafa is the King of Clay for a reason and he would be well aware of the fact that he will come out victorious if he absorbs the pressure from Thiem and gradually tires him out.
Key stats to watch out for:
· Break point conversion rate for both Nadal and Thiem
· First serve percentage for Nadal
· Unforced errors for Thiem
With both players in prime form, this could very well be the match of the tournament and it should definitely make for a fascinating watch. Despite Thiem coming into this match in prime form, one feels that Rafa might just be too hot for him to handle. Nadal has been in this very situation plenty of times before, and hence we feel the experience he holds will turn out to be crucial and will give him the edge over Thiem. Thus we predict Nadal to beat Thiem and progress to the Final of Roland Garros 2017.
Andy Muray vs Stan Wawrinka:
In the other semi-final, World Number 1 Andy Murray takes on Stan Wawrinka in what's a rematch of last year's Semi-Final. Murray won a relatively comfortable 4-setter in last year's Roland Garros semi-final, but Stan Wawrinka looks in prime touch so far in French Open 2017 and he is yet to drop a set. Murray, on the other hand, has struggled in almost every match in this French Open, but he has dug deep and found a way to get of jail and emerge victorious. Murray has won each of their last 2 meetings but Stan, on the other hand, won the 3 previous meetings before that, including his straight sets demoliton of Murray in US Open 2013. With Stan having the reputation of performing well in the big matches, Murray would know that he will have his work cut-out today.
Where could the match be potentially decided ?
Since this match involves a battle between two players with absolutely contrasting styles, both the players would exactly know what's coming at them and hence the player who outsmarts his opponent is bound to come out victorious. We take a look at the key aspects of the match which could potentially decide who comes out on top
Andy Murray's first-serve percentage:
Historically, Andy Murray has always done well in big matches when he has served and he always tends to struggle when he can't get his first-serve going. Muray has a 60% first-serve percentage in 2017, and this would definitely be a number he would like to improve on, when he takes Stan on later today. In their previous 16 H2H meetings, Murray has a first-serve percentage of just 59%. Murray would be well aware of the fact that Stan would pounce on his weak second serve if his serving is not up to the standards today.
The number of unforced errors committed by Stan Wawrinka:
In his last 4 Grand Slam H2H matches vs Murray, Stan Wawrinka has committed a whooping 43.2 unforced errors per match. This was one of the main reasons for his undoing in last year's semi-final against Murray. But Wawrinka seems to have kept that under control this year, as he has only made an average of 28.4 Unforced errors per match in French Open 2017. Wawrinka would know that he has to fine tune his game and make as less unforced errrors as he can, as he would only end up throwing the match away otherwise.
Return points won by each player:
As pointed out earlier, Murray has been struggling with his first-serve in this year's French Open, and attacking Murray's second serve would be one of the keys to success for Wawrinka. Wawrinka has broken serve 26 times in this year's French Open. But Wawrinka also played a tie-breaker in each of his first 4 rounds, winning all of them. Murray on the other hand, has broken serve 33 times in French Open 2017 so far, and he has also played 4 tie-breaks, winning 3 of them. In 2017, Murray has won 43.1% of return points whereas Wawrinka has just won 36.4% of his return points in 2017.
Key stats to watch out for:
1) Murray's first-serve percentage
2) Number of winners hit by Wawrinka
3) Net points won by Murray
4) Second-serve win percentage for Wawrinka
5) Break point conversion rate for both Murray and Wawrinka
Murray has been hot and cold throughout this French Open while Stan on the other hand, is in full flow, having not dropped a set yet. And Wawrinka also is a completely different "Stanimal" when it comes to big matches, and hence we predict Stan Wawrinka to beat Murray and progress to his 4th Grand Slam final.
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