The French Open comes to an end on Sunday afternoon when the men’s final of the tournament takes place on Philippe Chatrier Court at Roland Garros as Rafael Nadal takes on Dominic Thiem for the second Grand Slam title of the year.
Nadal will be off in search of an amazing eleventh title in Paris in this match while Thiem will be looking to open the scoreboard for him in terms of Grand Slam titles. These two have been the stars of the clay court season so it is fitting that they meet in the finale of it.
The Spanish legend has lost just the one set on his way to the final of this tournament but despite that I don’t think we have seen a vintage Nadal at any stage. Simone Bolelli could well have taken a set off him in the first round and had Juan Martin del Potro converted any of the six break points he earned in the first set of the semi-final he could have been a lot closer too.
I guess much of the reason why Nadal survived those hairy moments is the aura that he has on the red dirt where beating him has become a significant mental hurdle to overcome. Usually the great players save their best form for the biggest moment so it would be no surprise if we see his best tennis in this final.
The Austrian was always going to be in major finals and the chances are that it was this one that was always going to be his first one and that is very much the case. He will probably win a few Grand Slams over time but he faces a pretty monumental test to beat Nadal over five sets in his first final. If he wins here it will be a fantastic achievement.
Thiem is certainly in this final on merit. He has probably played consistently the best tennis of the tournament and while he had the easier of the semi-final draws he certainly came past tougher tests earlier in the event. He saw off Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev in the last 16 and quarter final respectively and the ruthlessness and powerful way he came through those tussles may have his followers believing he can win here.
Head to Head
These two men have met on nine previous occasions and amazingly they have all been on the clay. Nadal holds the edge as you would expect but he only leads Thiem 6-3 which will give the Austrian some encouragement. Another thing that will boost his confidence is the knowledge that it was Thiem who won their last meeting which came in Madrid earlier this year. They met in the semi-final here last year though when Thiem could only win seven games which may be a concern for him.
You would have to be pretty crazy to back against Rafael Nadal in this final and to be fair while I’m mad I’m not quite that bonkers although I am already against him as I’m effectively on Thiem at 14/1 to win this match having backed him outright. I don’t expect to be getting any more than the place money I already have but I guess in sport you never truly know.
When Nadal powered past Stan Wawrinka in the final here 12 months ago it was just the fourth time in his 10 French Open wins that he has won the final in straight sets so there is possibly every chance that Thiem can avoid the whitewash here. Nadal has begun his last two matches very slowly and if Thiem can latch on to any slowness from the Spaniard he could force the Mallorca man to pull out the stops. Thiem has the power to be dangerous enough in one set if not all of them so over 3.5 sets looks fair enough to me.
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