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Dominic Thiem will look to improve upon his 2017 Rome semi-final showing this week.

Thiem: Rafa Can Wait

Austrian meets Fognini in second round

Dominic Thiem's Mutua Madrid Open quarter-final against Rafael Nadal went exactly how the Austrian envisioned. The 24-year-old played aggressively, but he also didn't spray too unforced errors against the No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings as Thiem snapped Nadal's 50-set and 21-match win streaks last week.

The most important factor in Thiem's well-executed game plan, however, was the self-belief that he carried onto the court. “I went in with the attitude that I can beat him,” Thiem said. “It was very important I went in with a positive attitude, with an attitude to win. Like this I should go in every match against him.”

Thiem, who fell in the Madrid final to Alexander Zverev, might have another opportunity to increase his resolve against Nadal, the seven-time Internazionali BNL d'Italia champion. The two could meet for the 10th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Nadal leads 6-3) in the Rome quarter-finals. Thiem is one of only three men who have beaten Nadal three times on clay (Djokovic, seven; Gaudio, three).

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I played a very good tournament in Madrid. Here in Rome, again, not the best draw, I would say. A little bit unlucky again,” Thiem said on Tuesday. “But I have to see. Last year, I did really well. The change from Madrid to here, it's very different. I hope I can do it again here.”

One year ago, Thiem backed up his Madrid final by reaching the semi-finals in Rome (l. to Djokovic). The Austrian has reached at least the third round in all three of his trips to Foro Italico.

But, before any talk of a Nadal rematch, Thiem will have to tangle with home favourite Fabio Fognini, who has played some of his most inspired tennis in Rome. Last year, the Italian hit 23 forehand winners to beat Andy Murray 6-2, 6-4 and celebrate his first win against a No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings.

On Monday, Fognini breezed past Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-1. Thiem leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0.

Normally, you don't really know what to expect from him. But I think in Rome it's a little bit different. He's at home here. Amazing fans are here, and the atmosphere is really good for him. He's always played well here, last year beat Murray and also in the past had very good results. So I think probably Rome is the toughest tournament to play against him,” Thiem said.

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