Published: Sun, April 22, 2018
Sport | By Ruben Hill

Rafael Nadal shows he's a star molded from clay

Rafael Nadal shows he's a star molded from clay

Both Nadal and Thiem received first round byes.

Awaiting him on Friday is Dominic Thiem, who outlasted Novak Djokovic in three sets - 6-7 6-2 6-3.

Thiem's solitary victory came at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and he knows he needs to be at his best to have a chance of ending Nadal's hunt for an 11th Monte Carlo title.

Next for Thiem is World No. 1 and King of Clay Rafael Nadal who blew out Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-2. Nadal Nadal has won nine straight matches on clay court.

Nadal broke Khachanov's serve at the first attempt and, although he lost his own serve when leading 4-2 in the first set, he broke again in the next game before serving out the set. The 31-year-old is keeping his goals in Monte Carlo simple-despite his 10 titles-by just wanting to complete the tournament without retiring.

He took the first two games in quickfire time, before breaking again to lead 4-1 with the help of a raking crosscourt forehand.

Nadal breezed through the opener, bringing up set point with a trademark curling forehand before sealing the set with a deft drop shot.

A two-time French Open semi-finalist, Thiem recovered from a set down to book a last-16 clash against either Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Thiem believes Nadal is the only player that can stop him from winning many more clay tournaments. I'm getting to [it], I'm feeling like it's been getting better every day.

"It's the ultimate challenge to play against him".

"I understand that it's quite hard to play match after match on a very high level if I don't have too many matches behind me, if I had an injury, if I had an absence from the Tour for six months. I think I'm able to do that".

Djokovic has never reached the last 8 of the championship since past year's Wimbledon and contains fought with a long term elbow injury.

Djokovic, 30, had said he was pain-free in Monte Carlo for the first time in two years, but Thiem backed up his French Open quarter-final win over the Serbian from last year with another impressive victory.

Kicking off the action in Monaco on Thursday, Germany's world No 4 Alexander Zverev defeated compatriot Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

The 20-year-old, who won two Masters titles last season, became frustrated in the second set but battled through 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Sixth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium made it through after beating Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-4, 7-5. Bautista Agut raised a hand up in apology.

Grigor Dimitrov required three sets to get past Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6 6-3 6-4 and Richard Gasquet thwarted a sibling match-up in the quarter-finals by eliminating Mischa Zverev 6-2 7-5.

Meanwhile, Canadian Milos Raonic pulled out of the tournament before his third-round match against Marin Cilic on Thursday with a right knee injury.

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