Men’s tennis ís predictable nowadays. Most expected either a Rafael Nadal versus Dominic Thiem or a Rafael Nadal versus Alexander Zverev final in the French Open this year. Thiem put paid to Alex Zverev’s dream of making his first slam final, so now we are left with Rafa and Thiem to duel it out for the Coupe Des Mousquetaire.
Does Dominic Thiem even stand a chance against Rafa Nadal?
About two weeks ago my answer to that question would have been in the negative. After seeing the progression of the two dirt-rats, however, it appears Dominic Thiem could pull a rabbit out of his hat on this one.
What all has to work in favor of Thiem to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open?
For starters, and as shown to us by Diego Schwartzman, the conditions have to be a little wet and heavy to take the bite out of Nadal’s vicious top-spin. Followed by Thiem’s willingness to play very close to the baseline, and taking time away from Rafa. Thiem will also need to play flatter shots and try and shorten the points as best as he can against Rafa’s near-impenetrable defense. And lastly, but not the least, he’d have prayed for Rafael Nadal to not play his best clay-court tennis in the final.
Dominic Thiem has the game to take it to Nadal, but he has buckled at crucial moments in the past. He will have to hold his nerves and not back off more than five feet behind the baseline against, even, the best onslaught by Rafael Nadal. Can Thiem pull that off in the finals?
Can Rafael Nadal lose to Dominic Thiem at the French Open?
Rafael Nadal is 83-2 at the French Open and is locked in, by most, for his 11th Roland Garros title in 2018. He needs to be Rafa the beast and continue doing what he has been since 2005. The beauty of Nadal’s situation is that he doesn’t need to do anything more than what he has been over 12 years. Simply putting, hit those vicious forehand top-spin forehand to the single-handed backhand of Dominic Thiem and do it enough times for that single-handed backhand to break apart and turn into an error machine. That tactic has worked well for him against Federer, and there’s no reason why he cannot make it work against Thiem.
Will Dominic Thiem have an answer to that highly effective tactic of Nadal? We shall soon find out.
Conclusion: Nadal over Thiem in four or Thiem over Rafa in five sets.