Rafael Nadal won his second game at Monte Carlo on Thursday. He defeated 38th seed, Karen Khachanov in two straight sets 6-3 6-2.
Awaiting him on Friday is Dominic Thiem, who outlasted Novak Djokovic in three sets – 6-7 6-2 6-3.
The seventh-ranked Austrian has met Nadal on clay in seven matches and has lost five. He beat Nadal at the 2017 Rome Masters, but the Spaniard mastered him in Barcelona and in Madrid.
Thiem believes Nadal is the only player that can stop him from winning many more clay tournaments.
“We had a good rivalry during the period of clay [last season],” Thiem told The Express.
“Four matches in six weeks, always deep in the tournament. It was amazing.
“For me, he’s doing [well] for 10 or 11 years and for me it would be great to repeat a good run like last year.
“Until when Rafa is there and plays well, it will be hard, there will be really few opportunities for others, but aside him, the field is very open.”
Nadal is bidding for an 11th Monte Carlo title and with it the No.1 ranking position on tour.