By Ros Satar, at Roland Garros

  • Rafael Nadal [2] v Dominic Thiem [4] | Nadal leads H2H 8-4
PARIS, FRANCE – For the second straight year, Dominic Thiem will face Rafael Nadal for the Roland Garros title – will the script change this time around?

 

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Rafael Nadal [2] Path to the Final

Rafael Nadal in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France

Rafael Nadal in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France | (THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • R1: Yannick Hanfmann [Q] 6-2 6-1 6-3
  • R2: Yannick Maden [Q] 6-1 6-2 6-4
  • R3: David Goffin [27] 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3
  • R4: Juan Ignacio Londero 6-2 6-3 6-3
  • QF: Kei Nishikori [7] 6-1 6-1 6-3
  • SF: Roger Federer [3] 6-3 6-4 6-2

 

Rafael Nadal has looked virtually unstoppable, and we should stop and consider for a moment that the only person to take a set off the Spaniard was the No. 27 seed David Goffin. Everything else has looked depressingly routine as Nadal has progressed through a cakewalk draw.

The conditions during the semi-final were atrocious with dust storms kicking up, and scheduling of course has been an issue although Nadal has managed to escape the worst of the organisers’ attempts to benefit for the best bang for the buck – his match with Roger Federer was completed with no issues and carry-overs which will leave him well rested for the final.

He said, after the semi-final: “Being in final of Roland Garros again means a lot again and especially coming back from not an easy situation for all the injuries that I had. Being able to recover the level that I had the last couple of weeks is something that I am very proud of. And I am just focused on keep going and keep doing my thing well.”

 

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Dominic Thiem [4] Path to the Final

Dominic Thiem in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France

Dominic Thiem in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France | (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

  • R1: Tommy Paul [WC] 6-4 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2
  • R2: Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3 7-5
  • R3: Pablo Cuevas 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5
  • R4: Gael Monfils [14] 6-4 6-4 6-2
  • QF: Karen Khachenov [10] 6-2 6-4 6-2
  • SF: Novak Djokovic [1] 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5

 

What has looked like at times a circuitous route for Dominic Thiem into the final for the second time in a row has maybe been a bit deceptive! He dropped a set in the first three rounds before he realised that he could actually win matches in straight sets, but his match against Novak Djokovic, taken over two days and disrupted throughout with the Parisian weather showed just how his fitness has improved.

What would have been routine winners by World No. 1 Djokovic, who was aiming for a second holding of all four Slams at the same time, were retrieved time and again by Thiem. But will that extended match take its toll?

He said, after his marathon with Djokovic: “I feel good. 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.

“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

“It’s not the first time that that happens in tennis, and it’s not going to be the last time. That’s our sport. I mean, we are used to it, that we never know when we’re gonna play or sometimes we supposed to have a day off, and then, because of rain or other things, we don’t have. So, it’s okay, I think.”

 

 

Rafael Nadal [2] v Dominic Thiem [4] | Nadal leads H2H 8-4

It is a 13th career meeting for the pair, and their fifth at Grand Slam with all but one taking place at Roland Garros. But there is hope for the young Austrian, who has already built up quite a rivalry with the more veteran player. All four of Thiem’s wins over Nadal have come on the terre battue, and already sits second in the list for the most clay court wins over Nadal (Behind Djokovic with seven).

Nadal of course is bidding to become the first player in history to win 12 titles at any Grand Slam event and of course is looking to close the gap on Federer with an 18th Slam, chasing Federer’s total of 20. There are goals for Thiem to chase too. He would be the 150th Grand Slam men’s singles champion in history and is looking to be the first Austrian since Thomas Muster to win a Slam (1995 Roland Garros).

Thiem will have to display the same retrieval skills as he showed against Djokovic. His first appearance here was a complete anti-climax, but his level of fitness has been most impressive.

No matter how many times Nadal tries to insist that clay is not necessarily his favourite surface, this is where his aggressive game comes to the fore. The heavy topspin, his consistency and footwork and all-round bullish tenaciousness probably comes with a fear factor anyway, and certainly last year Thiem looked small and overwhelmed by it all.

What we saw effective (at times, given the conditions) was Thiem’s ability at the net, and even some serve and volley and one thing is for sure – we will be seeing some gruelling rallies today. Head says that Nadal will not be stopped, but Thiem could most definitely take a set off Nadal, if not two but the length and stop-start nature of Saturday’s match could catch up with him.

Prediction: Nadal in four sets

The Men’s Singles Final takes place on Court Philippe Chatrier at 3pm (2pm BST).

 

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