Thiem is brimming with confidence after stellar clay-court season
Dominic Thiem is the perfect man to topple the ten-time French Open championRafael Nadaland Thiem’s efforts on this surface in the last three seasons illustrate just that. In this clay-court season alone, Thiem has won a title down in Buenos Aires and made three quarter-finals in Rio De Janeiro, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. The real turning point, though, came in Madrid, where he really turned around the mental side of the head-to-head with Nadal going into the French Open. In Monte Carlo, Thiem took a bit of a beating, winning just two games in defeat, but the way in which he was able to take the match to Nadal at higher altitude in Madrid was a message of intent from the Austrian. He is full of confidence at the moment and still remains one of very few candidates that can say they are able to get multiple wins over the Spaniard on his beloved clay.
Thiem the only player to beat Nadal on clay this season
The fact remains that Thiem is the only player to actually beat Nadal this season on the clay, which sets up the final perfectly on Sunday. That win in Madrid is something that Thiem could use to help him mentally going into one of tennis’ ultimate challenges and that is beating Nadal on the Philippe Chatrier court over a best-of-five sets format. Thiem is also one of only three players that has managed to beat Nadal on clay on three or more occasions. The other two players are Novak Djokovic, who has won seven times and Gaston Gaudio, who beat Nadal on three occasions on the dirt.
Thiem’s serving patterns is something that will serve him well in this encounter
One thing that will be of the utmost importance is the way in whichThiem chooses to serve. We know that he loves the serve out wide on the ad court and even out wide on the deuce court and that is something that will be absolutely crucial in Sunday’s final. Those serves stretched out into the corners of the service box will allow Thiem to move Nadal into unfavourable positions of the court from the starting point of the rally, but it also ensures that Thiem gains ground in the control of the baseline exchanges. He has to find a way to make sure the points start on his terms and remain on his terms, which can be hard to do against Nadal.
Thiem’s pace off both wings can trouble Nadal
Nadal had an easy time of dispatching Juan Martin Del Potro in the semi-final match, but what Thiem brings to a tennis court that the big Argentine doesn’t is his ability to create pace off both wings. Nadal played most of his tennis towards Del Potro’s neutral backhand shot, but Thiem remains a permanent threat, even deep behind the baseline, because of the threat he poses from both the forehand and the one-handed backhand.
Thiem’s one-handed backhand is the key shot
Thiem’s dominant shot is the forehand side, but when he took on Nadal in this Madrid win a few weeks ago, Thiem really found a way to force the conversation with his one-handed backhand going into Nadal’s forehand side. He deliberately used that tactic to prevent Nadal from being aggressive off that side, but also to mask the frailties that a single-handed backhand can have on a bouncy red clay court. Thiem knows he has a winning play if he produces a similar style of tennis as he did in Madrid, but he has to remain aggressive from the backhand side from the very first return onwards.
POLL: Who will win the Roland Garros Men’s singles title?
The Roland Garros men’s final will be played on Sunday at 3pm (2pm BST).
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