The biggest threat to the Nadal-Djokovic hegemony at Roland Garros will be hoping to make a strong statement in his opening round match of the French Open. Dominic Thiem has shown he has the capabilities to beat both of them but will be seeking to go one better than last year’s losing final performance this time round. He opens against wildcard Tommy Paul.
Paul was the recipient of the reciprocal wildcard with the USTA, earning his spot after a strong month on the American clay in April. Paul was a French Open winner in the Boys event back in 2015 but has never really kicked on enough from that point onwards. He is yet to make the top 100 while the compatriots he beat in the semi finals and finals – Michael Mmoh and Taylor Fritz – have had more success and spent time there too.
Thiem has had another good year so far but the next step for the Austrian has to be a slam title. He was a surprise winner at Indian Wells while also winning in Barcelona too. He picked up another win over Nadal there, making it a win on clay against him for each of the past four years now. Unfortunately, it is always a different story at slams with Nadal winning all four of their matches including last year’s final here.
He did lose his opener in Rome but won’t be too despondent coming into the tournament because of that, with the tournament suffering rain delays and a scheduling build up had he gone far into the event. If he is at his best here, there’s no doubt he can beat Djokovic but it will still be a major ask.
Prediction – Dominic Thiem in straight sets