Nadal faces tough test from improving Thiem
Pouille should prevail in Budapest
ATP Barcelona Open
Sky Sports Mix, 3pm Sunday
Rafael Nadal has made the ATP Barcelona Open his own since clinching his first title in 2005 but the ageing Spaniard may not get things all his own way against Austrian challenger Dominic Thiem.
Only three times since landing his first Barcelona showpiece has Nadal failed to win his home event but there are reasons to believe Thiem is overpriced in his bid to dethrone the king.
Nadal was a winner at last week’s Monte Carlo Masters and has yet to drop a set in his crack at a tenth Barcelona title in 13 years, but Thiem is progressive and clay is his preferred surface, too.
The improving Austrian toppled world number one Andy Murray in the last four and if he can repeat the fast start which saw him break the Briton’s serve three times in the opening set, then he has every chance of upsetting Nadal on his own patch.
Nadal is likely to prevail but Thiem should match him in the early exchanges and backing him to win at least a set is worthy of interest.
Frenchman Lucas Pouille, a semi-finalist in Monte Carlo last week, has relished the drop in grade in Budapest and is fully expected to see off British hope Aljaz Bedene.
The top-seed is shooting up the rankings and and on his favoured surface should be too strong for the Briton.
Maria Sharapova’s hopes of staging a winning return in Stuttgart were ended by French ace Kristina Mladenovic in Saturday’s semi-final.
The Russian, who had been banned from tennis for 15 months, was chasing a fourth win in Stuttgart but finished the match tired and may use her appearance as a stepping stone to bigger things.
Over 2.5 sets in Nadal v Thiem
1pt 6-4 Coral
Already advised by Aaron Ashley
D Thiem (Barcelona)
1pt each-way 9-1 April 24
L Pouille (Budapest)
2pts 5-1 April 24