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Can Dominic Thiem dethrone Rafael Nadal at the French Open?  

Steve Shoup

Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, tennis, along with the rest of the world, was brought to an abrupt halt. However, the tour has now made its long awaited return, and whilst several tournaments have been cancelled until next year, including Wimbledon – which was postponed for the first time since World War II – we still have both the US Open in New York, and the French Open in Paris to look forward too – albeit behind schedule!

Whilst many players will have to choose between the two majors, due to the proximity of the two events and coronavirus rules, such as quarantine, 19-time major winner Rafael Nadal looks set to give up on the defence of his US Open crown and head to the Roland Garros in hope of winning his 13th French Open – and his fourth successful title!

The Spaniard won the competition nine times in the 10 years between 2005 and 2014 – getting the better of his fierce rival Roger Federer in four of those finals – and, despite poor performances in 2015 and 2016, Nadal is currently on the back of three straight titles.

Current World Number Three Dominic Thiem – who is the joint-second favourite, alongside World Number One Novak Djokovic, to win the tournament, according to the odds for the French Open 2020 – is becoming somewhat of a familiar face for the Mallorcan.

Nadal has gone head-to-head with the 26-year-old, who is tipped to take over as the new King of Clay, in the final of the French Open for the last two years in a row. In 2018, Thiem didn’t pose much of a threat for Nadal, with the latter winning in three straight sets – 4-6, 3-6, 2-6. The Austrian managed to pick up a set against the 12-time French Open winner last year, but Nadal still won comfortably – 3-6, 7-5, 1-6, 1-6.

The pair also clashed in the 2017 semi-final with Nadal beating Thiem in three straight sets – 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 – en route to his 2-6, 3-6, 6-1 final win over Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka.

Despite the disappoint for Thiem in recent years, with two semi-finals, and as many finals, lost in the last four years, the French Open still looks to be his best chance of winning a major!

Since breaking onto the tour in 2014, the Austrian has only reached one other major final, and that was this year’s Australian Open – which he lost 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the hotly contested final against the defending champion Djokovic.

It’s on clay that Thiem looks to be at his best. Alongside reaching the latter stages of the Roland Garros for the last four years on the trot, the Austrian made the final of the Madrid Open – which is also held on the dirt surface – in 2017 and 2018 – losing 7-6, 6-4 to Nadal and 6-4, 6-4 to German Alexander Zverev.

The Austrian also lost the 2017 Barcelona Open final at the hands of Nadal (6-4, 6-1). However, last year, Thiem finally lifted a clay-court title – beating Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-0 in the final of the Catalan tournament.

If anybody is going to take down the serial French Open winner, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be Thiem. But, can he become the future King of Clay? We’ll just have to wait and see!

 

 



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