French Open final preview and prediction: Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem

The odds appear somewhat stacked against Dominic Thiem. After producing a heroic performance to down world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the Austrian has to return to court just a day later in order to tackle the biggest test in tennis. While Thiem scrapped through his four hours and 13 minutes match across two days, Nadal could put his feet up on and relax on Saturday. No doubt he was rubbing his hands with glee at the manner in which Thiem and Djokovic hit chunks out of each other, it seems highly unlikely that the world No. 4 will be at his physical peak come Sunday’s final. Thiem, however, was quick to brush that suggestion off.  ‘I feel good,’ he said after his 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5 win over 15-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic. ‘Luckily I didn’t have so many long matches before today. And today and yesterday, of course, was tough. It’s probably a little bit more difficult to play these four hours with all the interruption than if you played in one time. Thiem’s physical condition will be a concern
(Picture: REUTERS)
‘But still, I’m feeling fine. I’m full of adrenaline, of course, still from today’s match, and also I will have that tomorrow. So I’m not going to be tired. It’s all going to come after the tournament. ‘So I’m ready to leave all or everything what I have out on the court tomorrow.’ The challenge lying ahead of him is far greater than simply just a physical test, Thiem must mentally reload after a draining win. It was a performance worthy of landing a first Grand Slam title, but the Austrian will leave empty handed should he fail to bring his A-game against Nadal on Sunday. As he alluded to ahead of his meeting with Djokovic, it’s no straightforward task to beat two men who have amassed 32 Slams between them back-to-back. ‘I mean, it’s incredibly difficult to win a Grand Slam,’ he said. ‘Because especially for us players who didn’t have one yet, because if everything goes quite normal, we have to beat two players with 15 or more Grand Slams. So I think everybody can imagine how difficult this is.

Thiem route to the French Open final R1: 6-4 4-6 7-6 6-2 Paul R2: 6-3 6-7 6-3 7-5 Bublik R3: 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5 Cuevas R4: 6-4 6-4 6-2 Monfils QF: 6-2 6-4 6-2 Khachanov SF: 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5

 ‘I hope it’s going to be positive in the end, but the challenge is huge.’ For Nadal, this is a familiar situation. It’s his 12th final at Roland Garros, having won the previous 11. Should he land the title, he will break his own record for the most titles won at a single event, moving the clay courts of Paris in pole position ahead of Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Only two players have beaten him in a best-of-five sets match at the French Open, one of whom was taken out by Thiem in the semi-finals, but the Austrian’s coach Nicolas Massu still believes his player can get the job done. ‘Having won several times against him on this surface can give you confidence,’ Massu said. ‘Not many people have done it. Dominic is one of them. ‘Rafa won 11 times here. I think he’s the best player in the history on clay. I don’t know if there’s going to be another guy like him. We respect a lot Rafa because, besides his unbelievable talent, he’s great player, a great person.

 Nadal route to the French Open final R1: 6-2 6-1 6-3 Hanfmann R2: 6-1 6-2 6-4 Maden R3: 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 Nadal R4: 6-2 6-3 6-3 Londero QF: 6-1 6-1 6-3 Nishikori SF: 6-3 6-4 6-2

 Federer ‘So unbelievable match tomorrow for the people, the crowd, for the French Open. The final is against guys that have unbelievable results on clay. And Dominic understand that tomorrow, if he wants to win, have to be very focused from the first ball to the last one. ‘Today was one of the biggest wins of his career, semi-final against No. 1 of the world, and tomorrow play with the best one in the history of clay. ‘So when you arrive to this stage of your career in a tournament, it’s because you are doing the things well. And tomorrow I think that he gonna try to do his best, and I think he have a chance. ‘But he play against the No. 1 in the world of clay in the history, it’s true. But we will try to do our best.’ Nadal isn’t a man who typically takes things for granted.
Will Nadal go all the way? (Picture: Getty Images) While he undeniably has a physical advantage heading into the final, he will face a man who has beaten him four times in the past on the dirt. ‘Leaving aside [Roger] Federer, because he hadn’t played on clay for two years, Novak, Dominic, and myself are maybe the players who have had the best results on that surface,’ he said after his semi-final win over Federer. ‘So the finals, whatever my opponent will be the most complicated opponent for me. In a final like this one, the opponent is always at a very high level, but that’s the rule of sports. That’s why this sport is even more interesting and even better. ‘I hope to be ready to give my best level against one or the other if I am able. I think that I’m confident in myself. If I’m not able to execute my game plan, it’s going to be complicated. ‘But if I play well, and I have played well up to now, no, I’ve got all my chances. But it’s always a match and anything can happen.’ Will Thiem cause an upset? (Picture: EPA) While I agree with the sentiment that anything could happen, one suspects Thiem will run out of steam. Nadal is utterly relentless on this surface and if the Austrian is anywhere below the peak of his powers, he will run into trouble. Thiem is capable of pushing the second seeded Spaniard, and each set could be pretty lengthy, but Nadal should have too much for him.

Prediction: Nadal in 3 Who will win the French Open? Rafael Nadal Dominic Thiem 200+ VOTES SO FAR.

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