(AFP) – Rafael Nadal crushed fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-0, 6-2 to romp into the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals on Friday as he stepped up his bid for an 11th title in style.
A tight match had been anticipated, but Rafa produced one of the most dominant wins of his career as Thiem fell to pieces in the Monaco sunshine.
The Austrian didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 10th game, drawing ironic cheers from the crowd.
But it was a ruthless performance from the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who has to successfully defend the title this week to remain ahead of Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings.
Rafa will face Grigor Dimitrov in the last four on Saturday, but the Bulgarian will need a massive improvement from his win over David Goffin if he’s to stand a chance against the 10-time champion.
Rafa started as if he knew Thiem was a potential threat, holding to love before breaking the 24-year-old at the first time of asking.
Thiem was not serving at the same level he managed in his win over two-time champion Novak Djokovic on Thursday, and although he staved off five break points in game four, he dumped a forehand into the net to gift Nadal a 4-0 lead.
Thiem was struggling, but Rafa barely missed a shot in a near-perfect opening set that he wrapped up with another strong return.
It was the 12th time Rafa had whitewashed a set against a top-10 player, and he got the second set underway with another love hold.
Thiem was wilting in the sweltering conditions and under the pressure from the other side of the net, and then back-to-back miscued forehands saw him lose an eighth straight game.
The Austrian, a two-time French Open semi-finalist, finally held his serve to trail 3-1 and deny Rafa the first 6-0, 6-0 victory of his career on the ATP Tour.
The 31-year-old brought up match point with a searing forehand winner, and finished off his dispirited opponent as Thiem fired a backhand into the net.