There’s a great chance that by the time you’re reading this, Rafael Nadal Parera might have already held the La Coupe des Mousquetaires for the 12th time in his career. That’s because in an ideal world we would get a day off after knowing who the finalists are, but it’s not an ideal world. Dominic Thiem will have to step on the court against Nadal in less than 24-hours since beating Novak Djokovic in the second semifinal that lasted over 2 days and over four hours. And as much professional as Thiem sounded in his post-match interviews about having to deal with things (read as poor scheduling), you know he’d have snatched the chance to have a day off before going against the King Of Clay!
Nadal will head into the Sunday’s final with an 11-0 record. Losing the French Open final is not something his existence has experienced. Even though the chances for Dominic are slim, beating Rafa on Sunday will be his greatest career achievement and one of the greatest feats of our sport. As Mr. Federer said before his semifinal against Rafa, there’s always a chance, else people wouldn’t be in the stadium watching. For Thiem to have a chance, a lot of things need to fall in place.
For starters, less windy and sunnier conditions. Rafa with his double-handed backhand will have it easier to control the ball in windy conditions- just like he did against Roger- while Thiem might struggle. Thiem won only 57.8 percent points on his first serve in last year’s final, a stat that has to change remarkably for the Austrian to have a chance. He would also have to minimize Rafa’s luxury of continuously targetting the single-handed backhand and avoid wear down on that side. Taking the ball early, staying close to the baseline and using the slice will be key tactics for Thiem throughout the match. Not to forget the odd drop shot that draws Rafa to the net. And there cannot be enough stress laid on the point that Thiem HAS to win the first set. The task already is a daunting one and if the Austrian lets Rafa take the lead, we can be in for a very one-sided finale (as if that’s already not a possibility, no?).
Thiem-as well as Novak- were very generous to each other in the semi, failing to take opportunities to close the sets as well as the match. Dominic needs to be selfish on Sunday, brutal if possible, else he’ll suffer, like others have, since 2005. There will be no mercy from the other side of the net for him, ask Roger!
If all goes well for Thiem, he MIGHT have a chance, if anything goes off, he should be prepared to dream for another year.
Not-so-fun fact for Thiem fans: He has only ever managed to win a maximum of FOUR games in any set(out of the total NINE) against Rafa in Paris.
Fun fact for Thiem fans: There is no shame in losing to Rafa on the second Sunday of Roland Garros. Enjoy.