Dominic Thiem is into the semifinals of the 2017 Atp Barcelona event. The run in Spain follows what was a disappointing effort in Monte Carlo a week ago that saw him eliminated in the round of sixteen. On Saturday, Thiem will face Andy Murray in the semifinals, a tantalizing match-up that could change the short list of French Open favorites.

Murray is 2-0 against Thiem

Murray is the World No. 1 and last year at this time he enjoyed his best clay court season.

Besides winning a Masters Series title on clay, Murray would make the French Open final where he lost to Novak Djokovic. Thiem lost to Djokovic at the 2016 French Open as well, one round ahead of the final. The Austrian is certainly a force on clay with six of his eight career titles coming on the surface.

But Thiem has yet to enjoy any success against Murray. They have only met twice on tour, but both results have gone the way of the Scot thus far.

They have not met in 2017 yet and they did not meet at all in 2016. However, Murray beat Thiem at the 2015 Miami event and at the 2014 Rotterdam event. Tuned-in tennis fans will note that both of those results were on the hard court surface, while Barcelona will be played on clay. It's the change of the surface that certainly gives Thiem a very good chance of defeating Murray on Saturday. The Austrian may not have the credentials that Murray has, however, there is a 6-7 year age gap between the two players.

It's probable that by the time Thiem gets close to 30 years old, he too will have at least one clay court Masters Series shield and at least one appearance in the French Open final as well.

Thiem needs momentum for bigger events

The match could be viewed as a coming-of-age match except for the venue. Barcelona is just a 500-series tournament and a title wouldn't really catapult Thiem into the limelight.

But beating the World No. 1 Andy Murray during what has to be called a lengthy patch of bad tennis would certainly help Thiem's career at this point. That would especially be the case if Thiem was to win the Barcelona title, keeping in mind that Rafael Nadal is still alive in the other half of the draw.

However, the Austrian still needs to emerge later this clay court season in Rome, Madrid, and Paris.

From that point of view, his result against Murray could be regarded as a step toward building more confidence. There are likely bigger matches to come for Thiem in the weeks ahead but a win over Murray in Barcelona will still give the Austrian plenty to build off of.

Currently, when it comes to French Open favorites, Murray is considered third favorite behind Nadal and Djokovic (source: bet365). Thiem is down the list as the 6th favorite behind Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer.

If the Austrian should defeat Murray then, quite simply, I see the Scot losing some favor while the Austrian gains some. With Djokovic struggling, Murray struggling often enough, Federer idle, and Stan Wawrinka without a title this season, Thiem might actually be below the radar for the French Open. It's even possible that he should be considered 2nd or 3rd favorite with results in Barcelona maybe swaying opinion of him a bit in the days ahead.

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