Rafael Nadal will look to make it a mind boggling eleven French Open titles on Sunday afternoon when he plays Dominic Thiem. The Austrian made his first Paris final after two semi final losses in 2016 and 2017 but will have his work cut out against the greatest clay player of all time. Thiem has a respectable 3-6 record against the World No.1, including a victory at Madrid earlier this year. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his countryman Thomas Muster – the 1995 French Open champion.
Nadal looked unstoppable in his semi final win, taking Juan Martin Del Potro apart in straight sets 6-4 6-1 6-2. The Argentinian did take an early medical time out but still forced break point opportunities later that Nadal would have to save. From saving 15-40 at 4-4, Nadal went on a tear for the rest of the match and showed just why he is so successful at this tournament. “It was a good second and third set for me, of course, and a good hold in the first. [I had] good tactics and [a good] mentality in the first set,” he said. “That gave me the possibility to play much better later on the match.”
The dream for Marco Cecchinato finally ended in the semi finals with Thiem doing a professional job against an inspired opponent. He still had to deliver at the important moments, including saving set points in the second set of his 7-5 7-6(10) 6-1 victory. “The second set tie-break was the big key to the match, 100 per cent, because obviously he felt all the matches from the past two weeks after that,” said Thiem. “If he would have won the tie-break, he would [have been] full power, for sure, in the third set. So it was good for me that I won it”
There’s no doubt that Thiem is capable of a victory against Nadal after what we’ve seen from their matches in recent years. However, best of five remains a different animal when it comes to beating the defending champion. Nadal was modest as ever on his chances of another title. “I have a very difficult match against a player that is playing great. I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances, good thing is I played a lot of good matches this clay-court season. So Sunday is the day to give my best, is the day to increase my level even a little bit more.” he said. The men’s game is begging for a 90s born player to take over with the big four felt to be on the way out in the next few years. Were Thiem (93) to win, he would overtake Marin Cilic (88) as the most recent born player to win a slam.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in four sets