French Open SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Thiem

Rafael Nadal has been perfect en route to the French Open semifinals.

The only reason why he is not perfect during this entire clay-court swing is because of the man who will oppose him on the other side of the net on Friday.

Nadal and Dominic Thiem will be squaring off for the seventh time in their careers and for the seventh time on clay when they collide again in the Roland Garros semifinals on Friday. The head-to-head series stands at 4-2 in favor of the Spaniard, who has won two of their three encounters in 2017–all of which have come this spring. Nadal triumphed in straight sets during finals in Barcelona and Madrid before Thiem got revenge with a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the Rome quarterfinals.

That is Nadal’s lone blemish on the red stuff this season, as he lifted trophies in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid to go along with wins this fortnight over Benoit Paire, Robin Haase, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Pablo Carreno Busta–the latter via second-set retirement on Wednesday. The nine-time French Open champion has not surrendered a set and has not even been pushed past 6-4 in any set. He has lost a grand total of 22 games in five matches.

“I am in semifinals; that’s all,” Nadal said after getting the virtual free pass from Carreno Busta. “I am in semifinals and with a very positive feelings. I played well all the matches here. Until 5-2 (when Carreno Busta got hurt), I think I was playing well today. So positive feelings and playing well.”

Thiem has been the undisputed second best player on clay this year, with a 22-4 record on the surface and a title in Rio de Janeiro. The Austrian avenged a blowout loss to Novak Djokovic in Rome by upsetting the world No. 2 and defending champion 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Thiem preceded that result by rolling over Bernard Tomic, Simone Bolelli, Steve Johnson, and Horacio Zeballos. Like Nadal, the 23-year-old is perfect in total sets.

“So far I have always played way worse match the following day if I beat a top guy,” admitted Thiem, who got clobbered by Djokovic after toppling Nadal in Rome. “So I hope I can improve that. I mean, it’s a joke how tough it is to win a slam. Because obviously now I beat Novak; on Friday (it) is Nadal. In the finals there is another top star. That’s why it’s a slam–because it’s such a tough achievement.”

Nadal, though, has almost made French Open titles look simple. He is a ridiculous 77-2 lifetime at this event and remains the clear favorite to win No. 10 having taken his last seven completed sets 6-0, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, and 6-2. Thiem, of course, represents much stiffer competition. At the same time, however, it has to be said that for Thiem, going from Djokovic to Nadal right now is also a massive step up.

The world No. 7 has never been to a Grand Slam final and with Nadal back in peak form, the wait may be one more year.

Pick: Nadal in 4

95 Comments on French Open SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Thiem

  1. Theim, what a disappointment. I didn’t watch it but sounds like of the last 2 weeks didn’t turn up.

    Ah well, we got what we wanted, a final between the 2 best players in the world on clay.

  2. I keep telling this to my friends and I will keep writing it here as well:

    Nadal does NOT let your game on the clay of roland garros! He is playing quite aggressively himself (note that aggression is not simply hitting 100 mph forehands), and he weight of his forehand and his ability to spread the court makes it really hard for his opponents to play their attacking game.

    Stan will be hampered to a good extent on his backhand no matter how great his backhand is because Rafa’s forehand is spewing VENOM at the moment.

    The sun will be shining and Rafa’s forehand will be so tough to deal with. Rafa’s forehand (assuming he hits it with good length) makes it so tough for stan ot execute his signature backhand DTL.

    Rafa’s second serve is so improved and Stan’s ROS is NOT amongst the best.

    I am expecting Rafa to win in 3 sets. He could lose a set if Stan has a crazy set and Rafa underplays.

    2015 final was against Djokovic against whom Stan finds at much easier to find rhythm. TOTALLY different match up! Also, that final was so poorly played from Novak from a tactical viewpoint. There was a dissent in his team as well regarding the strategy and it was not good. He was too passive and tried to pull off a Murray-like win for most part. No doubt Stan was on fire and played AMAAAZING ,butttttt, he will never get the same rhythm against Rafa. NEVER!

    I am really confident of a Rafa win. Sure, anything’s possible and Stan is a very high quality opponent. But, very very unlikely Rafa will not win his 10th.

      • One more thing about Djoko vs Stan at FO2015, Djoko had to deal with Murray over five sets in the SF spread over two days so he didn’t have a one day break from SF to Final. Physically he might be affected.

        Djoko hit a flatter DHBH which would not have troubled Stan’s SHBH and so he didn’t have Rafa’s advantage over SHBH players on clay. Had Djoko played like he did vs Thiem, i.e. taking the ball early and rushed Stan, he might stand a chance; but, Stan was too strong on that day and Djoko wasn’t in tip top conditions physically imo, hence he couldn’t do much to counter Stan’s aggressive hard hitting. Still, Djoko won a set and had his chances to push it to five sets, though he would still lose the match imo.

    • VR, I’m with you here, and I think Rafa will beat Stan in straight sets, just like I predicted that Rafa would beat Thiem in straight sets.

      Both Stan and Thiem come with SHBH, and we saw how Thiem was trapped at his BH corner busily defending against a Rafa’s ruthless topspin lefty FH and many many times without success!

      I agree too that Stan doesn’t have good enough ROS and Rafa’s crafty lefty serves will give Stan problems. Of course it all depends on how Rafa plays that day, the main thing is he has to calm his nerve and concentrates on the job at hand.

  3. I so agree with you vr. Theim felt it today and Wawrink awill get a taste on Sunday. That forehand when on song is deadly. plus, 80+ degree and sunshine. Stars are aligned for La Decima

  4. I got a great feeling that Wawrinka is going to beat Nadal in the final. When Wawrinka is at his best, he is the best player in the world. Wawrinka still got his peak match to come, and I got a feeling, it will be in the final where he also will need it. Odds 5 on Wawrinka to win is a gift from the bookmakers.

        • I am talking about Rafa’s record at RG. You cannot argue with those stats. Stan has not beaten Rafa at RG.

        • Courier impressed with his analysis for a while but, like other closeted fedfawns, his confirmatory bias on Nadal clouds his objectivity.

          That Wawrinka had much to do with that AO win over an injured Rafa is quite telling. Nole mentally had checked out at the French and played way too passively.

          Disappointing. Thought we had a great analytical and objective mind on VR’s level but unfortunately not the case.

          • Yeah, I’m disappointed, too, about “Jim Courier”. His analytics aren’t sound.
            But why are we even discussing it? Rafa and Wawa will settle this argument on Sunday with their raquets.

            • That is the most sensible thing I have heard yet! Despite all the talk, on Sunday this will be decided on the court by Rafa and Stan!

              The rest is just noise!

          • Rafa was fine for the first set and a half of that AP final and Stan was taking him to the cleaners. Obviously he ain’t gonna take Rafa to the cleaners here but don’t underestimate the threat Stan poses.

            • No Rafa was injured in practice itself that day. He was compromised in 3rd game itself and it completely aggravated i towards end of 1st and he had to take a medical timeout .

        • Ridiculous argument, lol! Stan has only played in three finals, and while he was good, he also had a lot of luck on his side. Rafa has played in many, many more slam finals, winning 14, which is eleven more than Wawrinka has. While I’m not saying that Rafa has won the cup for sure, statistics certainly don’t exactly favor Wawrinka. It’s more likely that Wawa loses his first slam final than that Rafa loses his first RG final.

        • That’s because Stan had being to so few finals! He will lose this one, and we’ll stop hearing the blah blah blah about him not losing in slam finals!

          • Yes, Stan’s sample size of three finals is simply too small for meaningful statistics. If he had been in just one final and had won it he would be at 100%, too 😉
            If he really manages to win on Sunday, then we can start and admire his unblemished final record with more justification.

    • Actually what’s most interesting about those videos is how short Novak and Rafa were leaving their shots – neither looking very confident or remotely at their best.

  5. Rafa will not let Wawa play his game. Andy had a chance but he was too defensive when it mattered and it cost him match.

    People keep saying Thiem didn’t play his best, but the truth is he COULDN’T play his game because of Rafa being on the other side of the net in his killer mode! Rafa was nervous at the start of the match but as soon as he broke Thiem back the order was restored.
    Also some of you saying Rafa was not playing his best today. Well, most of it had to do with Thiem playing his hard hitting going for broke game, yet he got bageled in the third! That’s how good Rafa is!

    Hope those of you who predict Wawa’s win on Sunday do not start wining about Wawa being too tired etc. if he gets hammered by Rafa!

    I will only say: Nick was right!

    Vamos Rafa!

    • Nats,

      I agree with you! Well said! Rafa was nervous in the beginning of the match. But he settled down after he got the break back and took control of the match. Thiem came out blasting, just as I thought he would. But Rafa took him out of his game.

      Rafa used his smarts, guile and experience to get the better of Thiem. All Thiem could go was bludgeon the ball, going for too much and not picking his spots and taking advantage of opportunities. They showed stats late in the match and Thiem only clay converted one out of seven break chances, while Rafa had four out of eight break chances converted. Wasn’t that evidence that Rafa was playing well enough to break Thiem 50% of the time?

      We keep hearing that Rafa isn’t playing that great, but he dismantled the guy who has been the second best player on clay this season.

      Thiem was exhausted and desperate and completely at a loss as to what to
      do in the third set.

      • Well said Nats and NNY, 👍

        Rafa didn’t even need to go into fifth gear to handle Thiem, he just played well enough to beat Thiem. Thiem’ gameplan was going for broke, hit as hard as possible, but Rafa wasn’t Djoko, Rafa didn’t give Thiem much chances to have his way.

        Comparing Rafa to Murray who used his guile against Stan, another big hitter, Rafa has more weapons than Murray. Murray was more defensive and had to use his defense and guile to fend off Stan’s attacks, and Stan had to go the distance to beat Murray.

        Rafa won’t be like Murray, he’s way more aggressive than Murray with his FH. Stan would have a harder time with Rafa, I won’t be surprised that Rafa beats Stan in straight sets too. Rafa is just so relentless when it mattered the most.

  6. It doesn’t matter how good the opponent has been in major finals, nor does it matter if Rafa is 19 years old or 40- beating Rafa in a RG final would be the upset of the century! There is no greater challenge in the sport of tennis than beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in the final. I would truly be shocked if Stan pulled it off… In my opinion, it would be the greatest win of any player ever haha! That’s why I just don’t see it happening. Take beating Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in the 1990’s and multiply that by a THOUSAND- that’s how monumental beating Rafa in a RG final would be, imo. So good luck, Stanislas- you’re gonna need it!

    • MA,

      Interesting to read Uncle Toni’s thoughts. But the truth is that Rafa doesn’t have to be at his best to beat most players on clay. That’s part of his greatness.

      I think Rafa had a lot to do with Thiem going for too much and overhitting his shots. He was being pressured in a way that he wasn’t by Novak.

      It’s always worthwhile reading Uncle Toni’s thoughts because he knows Rafa better than any of us.

      Thanks!
      😘

  7. Nadal is overrated due to his record on RG. Yes, it is very impressive, and yes, he have done amazing, BUT, and this is the big but, and people can say what they will, this is a fact. Nadal was peaking back then, and played the best tennis of his career, and that is just over, he will never ever be able to play as good as he once did, because of his playstyle. He is a grinder, and what made him perhaps one of the best grinders, especially on clay, was his fitness and atletism. He is still very fast, but he will never be as fast and filled with energy as back then. Wawrinka is a cannon, and when he gets in the zone, I feel like he is unbeatable over 5 sets. A younger Nadal, could maybe beat a prime Wawrinka, but it’s not a younger Nadal, and it is a prime Wawrinka. Too many live in the past including the bookmakers. They been doing it many times. I wouldnt be surprised if Wawrinka won 3-1. All I know is, that I am actually going to be surprised, if Wawrinka doesnt win the final. For me he is the superior player at this time, making Nadal a huge favorite, would not even make sense for me if it was the prime Nadal, but considered it’s not, I would have been more than happy with anything above 2.50 on Wawrinka tbh. And I wasnt expecting much more either, but I can only be happy. Nontheless it is going to be a great final for sure, that’s guarenteed.

    • Federer is overrated because of the weak era.

      Ended in 2008. Now has losing records to both Rafa and Nole.

      Lucky to have a clay slam at all.

      Your sad attempt at “banter” was waaay too long and too full of tired overplayed fedfawn garbage.

    • Okay I have a feeling bout Stan the Man in this one but I wouldn’t say Stan is the superior player right now. Look at what Rafa has done lately.

    • ATP: I agree that this is not prime Nadal, but I’m not sure it’s prime Wawa either. He is 32, even if he hasn’t played as much tennis as the other top guys. I do think Stan’s best will beat Nadal’s best at this time, but that too is based more on the not-so-recent past (3 GS finals) than it is on current form. There’s no objective (i.e. performance-based) basis for saying that Stan is the superior player on clay right now, based on recent form.

      • Joe, Stan’s best do beat Rafa’s best at this time? Any proof of that or it’s just your own wishful thinking?? What has Stan done lately, or at this time? Rafa is leading the race this season and he’s way ahead of Stan! To say that Stan’s best at this time do beat Rafa’s is laughable, as if Stan can just play his best or not at will! Anyway, there’s enough proof that Rafa’s best is way better than Stan’s, judging by what they have achieved and how often Rafa beats Stan.

        You know what, you always give me the feeling that you just want someone to beat Rafa, so that you can argue your case that Rafa is not that great! I think you’re just not happy that Rafa the counterpuncher beats most guys, including Fed, whom to you are more attacking players.

        As it is, you’re just looking for players hitting winners and winners, attacking and attacking and you assumed they’re good players and so can beat Rafa when they’re playing their best tennis!

        How often did Stan beat Rafa, and on clay?? You rather believed that Stan playing at FO2015 level could beat anyone including Rafa now, to me that’s wishful thinking. Don’t equate beating Djoko on clay to beating Rafa! Rafa is not the king of clay for nothing!

        • Lucky, why do you care so much that I think Stan’s best will beat Nadal’s best at this time? You’ll notice that I qualified that claim by saying that it’s not based on recent form, but on not-so-recent evidence of Stan’s record in slam finals.

          I’m obviously putting a lot of stock on the fact that Stan simply seems to be a different and much better player in GS finals than he is at pretty much any other time. I think a large part of it has to do with being the underdog: having everyone else think that you can’t win, but believing that you can. I don’t guarantee that Stanimus Prime will show up; in fact, on the Nadal-Wawa preview page I put it at only slightly over 50% that he will. And if he doesn’t, I predict that Nadal will win fairly easily.

          For all (like you) who think that there’s just about no chance Rafa can lose, just remember that Stan was a far bigger underdog in 2014, 2015, and 2016 slam finals than he is for tomorrow’s match.

          I agree, as I think I said

          • Joe, the AO 2014 final Rafa was injured, who could foresee that happening? USO2016 final, I don’t think Stan was playing very well, it’s just that Djoko played horrible and was fortunate to reach the final. As for the FO2015 final that you often like to mention, don’t forget Djoko had to play the SF vs Murray over two days, hence he didn’t have a day’s rest unlike Stan.

            While Stan was playing well in that final, I don’t think he’s unbeatable and a fit and healthy Rafa would beat him, as always on clay, IMHO! You like to make it sound as if Stan at his best could beat anyone including the big four, but I would say only when they’re not at their best. Their respective results and achievements tell us so.

            You know what, you’re always doubting Rafa, and each time Rafa proved you wrong. I hope and I think he will prove you wrong on Sunday again.

    • What you are particularly underestimating here is Nadal’s offensive abilities. The Nadal you’re watching now is not the counter-puncher that played Roger 10 or 12 years ago at all, he is playing much more aggressively these days.

      I want to see a good final and I hope Wawa makes a game of it, but I don’t think he is unbeatable over five sets by any means. He is able to up his level for them, but he still loses them sometimes, even when he’s playing well.

      • TTWD, I know that you are not a Nadal fan, but your analysis is more objective. Rafa’s game has indeed evolved quite a bit again. I think that many non-fans simply don’t watch enough Rafa matches and therefore miss his developments. Of course I don’t blame them. It’s natural. I only watch players I don’t like when they play in a match which I’m interested in. But I always smile when I read that he’s simply a counterpuncher, grinder and moom baller. They also miss what a good tactician he is.
        While Rafa seems to be near his very best on clay right now (some journos like Wertheim and Steve Flink even claim that he’s better than ever, but that might be a bit deceptive because he didn’t face all that much opposition so far) I’m not so sure if Wawa is really near his best beast mode. And he’s actually one year older than Rafa and was just on the brink of defeat and had to play a gruelling 5-setter. If it becomes a dog fight in the heat on Sunday it might catch up with him. I have no idea anyway how Stan fares in very hot conditions. My guess is that, while Rafa isn’t as heat proof as he used to be, he might be holding up better, especially since he hardly spent any energy on his way into the final.

        • Thanks littlefoot, I generally try to be objective, although it’s not always easy to keep the mindset. You seem to do a good job at it yourself. One has to admire Nadal as a tactician, and he is certainly more than a counterpuncher. That style is kind of like a ‘default’ mode for him, but he can play very aggressively, and change his approach when necessary.

          I think he probably is close to his best on clay at the moment, but it’s a hard thing to assess. Different elements of his game have gone up and down over the years, the same’s happened with Old Fed too. Right now Rafa looks great, in this sort of attacking mode on clay it is like he has the ball on a string, sending it out left then right, almost changing direction at will. He is shortening the points, and at 31, it’s clearly the right way to go.

          Wawa – well, the semi may take a bit of a toll on him, although most of his matches have been pretty routine. I don’t think he really is at ‘beast mode’ either, but his form is good. Murray is no Nadal on clay, but he was impressive in those first four sets.

          I will be tipping Nadal in the final, I think he deserves to be a heavy favourite, despite Stan’s clay abilities and finals record (Nadal is 9-0 at the FO, so someone’s record has to be blemished, one way or the other). I hope Stan can bring his best game though, as if he does, it will be a worthy final.

        • At tennis.com, they’re comparing the 2017 Rafa on clay to the 2007 Rafa. They’re now doing this comparison for Rafa just like what they had done comparing the 2017 Fed to the 2006 Fed on the HCs in the first quarter of the respective seasons.

          Those who said Rafa was better in 2007 cited the fact that he beat Delpo (Delpo in 2007? Come on!), Djoko (Djoko wasn’t even no.3 back then) and Fed back then at the FO. I seriously doubt that Rafa was better in 2007 than in 2017, except that he’s more youthful, quicker and more powerful.

          I would say the 2008 version of Rafa at the FO was the best version of Rafa ever, at that time he did beat Djoko who was already the third best player behind him and Fed; not to mention beating everyone else handing out bagels and breadsticks, including Fed in the final. The 2008 FO Rafa was both great in offense and defense, and his BH plus FH were at their best at that time.

          Rafa of 2017 FO is not so much about speed and power or defensive skills; its more about his all round game and good tactical play, being more offensive than defensive. He won’t be better than his 2008 or 2010 version, but he’s not too far behind those imo, even better than his 2013 version, except maybe that SF where he played an epic match vs the formidable Djoko.

      • Nny & Hawks!…When we don’t like about someone…especially that someone collecting a silverware non stop and on the verge of collecting an important one on sunday..we feel a little jealous and angry..because our fav maybe not playing or out already[and i’m not talking about Andy fans here]…and we just want to lashed out to everyone available,just so we can feel better…IMO,Jim Courier and MainATP just want to bait us…don’t fall into their trap…just keep calm and enjoy this moment with wonderful feelings…Remember!

        http://scontent.cdninstagram.com/t51.2885-15/s480x480/e35/13183410_1004837119591973_643985470_n.jpg?ig_cache_key=MTI1MDk1MzI2MTI5Nzk0MTgwOA%3D%3D.2

        • MA,

          Thanks! I will take your advice! I have been on such a high today with Rafa’s win! I don’t want to let anyone spoil it.

          I think you are right about the motivation for those posts. Not worth being baited by any of it!

          You are my inspiration!
          😘👏👍

          • Yeah Nny!!….There’s always someone who don’t like Rafa and is very happy to see him lose…so,they will do anything to make their ‘don’t like’ feelings be known…but,we are much much better than that..just shrug it off okay?

        • Of course you are bang on as usual MA.

          But I’m having good fun with them. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Too easy LOL.

          • I know Hawks!Hahaha…I wish to see u handle Rafa hater’s on TX…God!it’s painful to read their comments there!

            • They keep banning me. I’ve had several monikers there. Truth hurts lol.

              Not a fair playing field.

            • Yeah Hawks!It’s a shame tho’…i really really love to see u there…it’s a shame too when you’re there,we still didn’t know each other…otherwise,it’s going to be awesome trading comments with u there hawks!!

  8. No idea why you are bringing Federer into this. This is between Wawrinka and Nadal. Nadal WAS the king of clay, and versus a prime Wawrinka, he would need to build a timemachine and get his younger self back, because he won’t beat prime Wawrinka with his current form, noone would.

    • Because it’s obvious you are blinded by being a fedfawn and putting hopes on just another incompetent Swiss when it comes to playing an in form Rafa.

      Hope this helps.

    • MainATP,according to you Wawrinka is now the new king of clay? 😉
      Well, let’s wait and see how this is going to play out, lol!
      Again, I’m not saying that Rafa has bagged the cup already, but some analysts here are more driven by wishful thinking than any expert knowledge.

      • The funny thing is that Rafa just clobbered the second best clay courter of the season without even having to play at his best, while Wawrinka was just dragged through a gruelling five setter by a slumping player (although admittedly the No 1 – for now) who is no clay expert at all. And yet – their conclusion is that Wawrinka will win for sure 🙂

    • Sorry this is not prime Stan; the prime Stan appeared in FO2015 where he almost steamrolled everyone. The 2017 Stan has to fight so hard to put away a Murray who’s still finding his way back; Stan won’t be that fortunate against the real king of clay!

  9. To beat Rafa in RG final, it will be only possible if Wawa is paired with Fed playing double against single Rafa.

    #RealityJokes

    Bet your house for anyone who thinks Wawa would win, if you dare.

    • Let Rafa play and win it. There is nothing guaranteed.

      I remember you Fg even saying with complete confidence about AO final but that one played out differently.

  10. AO is a little bit different.

    All of a sudden, fed just keep beating Rafa on hard court in 2017. There was never any precedence indicating this. Rafa is always unlucky in AO, but it is different in RG. Furthermore Rafa lost repeatedly in AO final, there were some bad luck in all those three finals.

    Fed who played best of clay court match beating super man Nole in 2011 RG, was made helpless by Rafa in final. 2017 Rafa is so much more dominant than 2011 Rafa. That is my reasoning in seeing this final outcome.

  11. Stan has the ability to win this match if he catches fire which I think he will because it is a slam final and he seems to do so in these big matches. You guys are making a mistake by totally ruling out Rafa losing this. However, if Rafa takes Stan to the cleaners, you can shun me for what I am saying lol

  12. Wawa said it himself, the biggest challenge in men tennis is beating Rafa in RG final.

    Would love to watch a thrilling match worthy of GS final though, rather than a beat down like yesterday. Maybe something like 2011 final.

      • Stan is the distinct underdog in this match, which imo suits him much better than being slightly favoured, as he was against Murray.

        I’m not exactly sure what the head pointing gesture means, but I think it has to do roughly equal parts with playing smart and believing you can win against a favoured opponent. There was very little head pointing in the match against Murray.

  13. Only watched the first two sets; a few comments. Thiem obviously did not play well, as he said afterwards. Nadal had a role in that, of course, but imo it was not a huge one. Mostly, Thiem didn’t approach his level that he achieved against Novak, and nothing less was ever going to cut it. Rafa’s winners/unforced errors were about even, and I didn’t think the FH was a major factor. The big difference in the first two sets was that Nadal played the big points better, in particular, his break point conversion rate was much better. Not a huge surprise.

    As I saw it, the most important dynamic in general (which had a parallel in the Wawa-Andy match) was that Thiem wasn’t connecting often enough on his big groundies early on and actually went away from the only strategy that was ever going to deliver the victory. Even in the latter stages of the first set, he was hitting with less pace, more topspin, and much shallower in the court. That sunk him, imo. I disagree with Lucky that Thiem has the advantage in baseline rallies. To do that, one must either be able to hit winners more consistently, or miss less often, than the opponent. Thiem could do neither, which goes a long way toward explaining his loss.

    • Joe, that’s on the assumption that Thiem is hitting without missing with his heavy ground strokes. Rafa didn’t engage in too many long rallies with Thiem here, only a few, because Thiem was over hitting, trying to blow Rafa off the court. If Thiem had more patience and chose the right moment to pull the trigger, it’s hard to contain him. Of course that’s not easy to do against Rafa, as Rafa won’t let him have the time to do so ( and that’s why I said, IF Rafa chose to engage in long rallies with Thiem, Thiem would win, but Rafa was wise enough in this match not to do so!).

    • Joe, Rafa as a lefty had successes attacking Thiem’s SHBH time and again. Rafa was controlling the rallies and Thiem rarely had the chance to hit his explosive FH. As I said before, Rafa would use his lefty topspin FH to full advantage against a righty SHBH player on clay.

      • And Joe, if you failed to see how Rafa’s FH did the damage (pining Thiem to his BH corner and forcing errors) then I don’t know what match you’re watching.

        Rafa’s BH was also good enough to hit to Thiem’s FH to open up the court before going to Thiem’s BH.

        • Lucky, do you have a link to detailed match statistics? I find it very hard to get them, but my sense from the first two sets was that Thiem was more error prone on the FH than BH; most of those shots were coming from Rafa’s BH not his FH.

          • Joe, Thiem made more errors on his FH than his BH no doubt, but that’s not due to Rafa always hitting to Thiem’s FH. It’s because Rafa was attacking Thiem’s BH most of the times, forcing errors or weak returns from that wing and so Rafa was then able to attack Thiem’s FH. Thiem was then forced to cover his FH and he overhit many of them.

            Rafa was attacking Thiem from both wings, moving Thiem from side to side along the baseline but when he attacked Thiem on the BH, Thiem was often stuck there defending.

            • That’s not how I saw it, Lucky, though I’d have to study closely to make a judgment of the sort you’re making. At the very least, the fact (if it is one) that Thiem made more FH than BH errors seems to undermine the claim that Rafa’s (mostly CC) FH was doing most of the damage.

              I don’t actually think Rafa played that well (neither did Uncle Toni); it was more that Thiem didn’t deliver the performance he was capable of.

          • Watch the match Joe, Rafa was hitting to Thiem’s BH very often. The pattern vs SHBH players on clay is always similar, attack the BH to extract errors, or weak replies and then attack. Don’t just see the stats, watch how the match was played.

            Rafa played well enough to win, not necessary to be at his best yet, and that’s the scary part, because he still can raise his level when he has to. And, you think Thiem didn’t play well because he didn’t wanted to? It’s because he’s being pushed by Rafa to go for more, rushed to hit his FH and so the errors.

  14. Lest anyone doubt that I recognize: Another great victory for Nadal, who did not play his best, but still won fairly easily against the player with the second best record this clay court season. Obviously, that speaks volumes. If both Rafa and Stan play at the level they did in their respective SFs, I have little doubt that Nadal will win easily, possibly in straights. Now, I don’t think Stan will play at that level: I think he will lift his game considerably. But that’s another story.

    • Stan might well lift his game if he has left enough in the tank, but so will Rafa. And while Stan is often credited with playing smart, Rafa often doesn’t get enough credit for using his brain at least as much as his brawn. Personally I think he’s one of the best tacticians out there and when fully fit he is able to execute not only a plan A but also a plan B and C. Thiem was sorely lacking in this department yesterday. I’m also a bit surprised that Thiem’s young age and inexperience is used as an excuse. He’s not a teenager anymore and has been playing Rafa often enough this season. Rafa at Thiems age was beating Roger on all surfaces!
      The match yesterday showed IMO also that in Rome Rafa wasn’t fully motivated to beat Thiem. While I don’t want to accuse him of outright tanking, he probably decided to switch into a lower gear. At his age he knows how to pick his fights and he wisely decided that winning in Rome wasn’t worth jeopardizing RG.

  15. Watched the Djoko vs Thiem match again. I do feel that Thiem is the next clay court king in the making. He will not have Rafa’s success on clay (who has?) but with his spin and pace on his shots, big serve, speed and power, he will win many titles (and important ones) on clay. He just has to add in new dimensions into his game and keeps improving, perhaps works on some strategies and some court craft instead of just hitting hard.

    • Yeah I agree with this. Despite not being much of a challenge for Rafa, Thiem should be good enough to win at least one FO. He’s 23, and he’s got a sturdy, powerful game in the Wawrinka-mould. The interesting question is, how long will it take? In a way, it’ll be sad if this new generation has to basically wait until the old guys retire in order to win slams. A credit to the Big four, but a qualifier on the new gen.

      • There’s no need to be sad for the new gen guys, the big four are aging, their time will come. Even the Raonic gen will also benefit once the big four era is over, maybe just like in the transition period from Sampras era to Fed era.

        Seriously, we don’t see players winning > 10 slams too often, so I doubt without the big four, players like Kei, Raonic or Thiem, Goffin, Dimi are going to win many slams each, perhaps they’ll share the spoil, each winning two or three or four slams? They (the Raonic gen) will have to fight with the next gen i.e. Alex Zverev, Khachanov, Chung etc.

        The ones that I really feel sad about are the likes of Ferrer, Berdych, Tsonga, Gasquet and maybe Monfils too. They spent their prime within the big four era, couldn’t beat the big four even though they reached the slam finals or SFs. It’s only the two giants – Delpo and Cilic – and Stan who are able to win slam(s) and beating the big four to do so.

        • I won’t feel sad for the new gen guys, it’s more that it’ll be somewhat disappointing if they can’t even really effect a ‘take over’ from them, i.e. they rely on biding their time. I guess Kyrgios, Thiem and Zverev now have some wins against the top guys, but it remains to be seen if they will do anything at the slams while the Big 4 are still consistently in the GS finals. True though, the Big 4 level of dominance is rare indeed, it may go unmatched for a very long time.

          I think Raonic should get at least one slam, I am a bit more confident on him than Goffin, Dimi and Kei, although they should all at least have a chance. I can see Kyrgios & Zverev making it hard for them, but it’s hard to predict these things. Kyrgios could win a bunch if he finds the consistency and avoids injuries, but who knows, he may be plagued by those things for a long time.

          And yeah, I do feel sorry for some of those guys, particularly the first three. Gasquet is talented and I love watching the backhand, but I think he’s not quite on their level. Monfils has always had a lot of talent and athletic ability, but tactically he has never been good, which is a shame.

  16. As John McEnroe rightly said: clay court tennis is not a sprint, it’s a marathon! And it’s more true for RG! So, unless Thiem learns to be patient, focus on point construction rather than just trying to hit through his opponents, he will be losing the big matches at RG! His coach knew that from the get-go, there was no mind games in his pre-match statements, just honesty! Thiem was able to beat sub par, nervous and low on confidence Novak who is obviously not back to near his best, so it was an easy target! Rafa was never gonna let Thiem hit his winners but instead pushed him back and forced him to make errors..Great Rafael! The King one and only!

    Just for the record I don’t think it will be an easy one with CryBaby tomorrow. He can play on clay, he proved it. However, saying that Wawa is the second best ever on clay is just pure blindness and wishful thinking. And it’s disrespectful to Nole. Just because he is in the slump this year does not erase his records on clay and the fact that he has more than often been able to take it to Rafa on clay!

    • No way Nole is second best clay player ever. That would be Borg, and even for current players, Federer gets the nod before Djokovic, imo.

    • I agree with Nats regarding to Thiem needing to learn how to construct points on clay. There is no one better than Rafa when it comes to that. Rafa exposed Thiem’s ball bashing strategy and its limits. If Novak was even close to being the player who won 12 slams, he would have been able to do it.

      Historically Borg would be the second greatest clay court player. But if we are talking about this era, then it’s close between Novak and Fed for second best. Stan is not second best. No way.

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