Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem: French Open final preview and prediction

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem: French Open final preview and prediction

The top-seeded Nadal enters Sunday with a 10-0 record in title matches at Roland Garros and an overall career mark of 85-2 at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

He will now be looking to win a record 11th grand slam title of the tournament. Thiem beat Marco Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6, 6-1 in his semifinal matchup.

The fifth seed, playing in his first Roland Garros semi-final in nine years, had three break points in the third game and three more in the ninth.However, the 29-year-old was unable to capitalise and Nadal made him pay in the 10th game when he claimed the opener off a netted backhand.

"I couldn't play my best because of him", said del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion.

Argentine Del Potro often had Nadal in trouble in a ferocious first set but paid heavily for failing to convert any of the six break points that came his way at 1-1 and 4-4.

His ideal sliding and fine single-handed backhand make him a fearsome player on clay and Cecchinato believes he has what it takes to continue his climb up the rankings.

"Maybe the experience helped a little bit but the big key was the second set tiebreak because it was very close and I saved I think three set points", said Thiem.

Perfectionist Rafael Nadal went through his routine with military precision on the eve of a French Open final battle with an opponent who learned all about being well-drilled during a national service stint.

"Forget the 10 (French Open titles) and forget what happened past year, Thiem has to remember what happened in Madrid which is a title Nadal wants to win nearly as much as the French", Wilander, Eurosport's chief analyst, told Reuters. "I have a plan".

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Surely, so did del Potro.

Nadal then served out that game.

"Just thinking in a positive way and just thinking that I have to hold".

Nadal will retain the world number one ranking if he wins - but that will be the last thing on his mind. All have been on clay, and Nadal leads 6-3, including 2-0 in Paris, beating Thiem in the first round in 2014 and the semifinals a year ago. Over the past two years, including best-of-three matches, the Spaniard is 49-2 at clay tournaments.

Well drilled as ever, Nadal looked relaxed as he a huge crowd swarmed to Court 4 to see him practice on a glorious Saturday afternoon in Paris. Stephens won last year's US Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals. Thiem withstood a barrage of break points to hold in a marathon sixth game, which he thought he had won at 40-30 when he left a wide ball, only for the umpire to overrule the line judge.

Nadal, in an on-court interview, also said he's sure that runner-up Thiem will win the tournament in "the next couple of years".

Thiem weathered three set points for Cecchinato, at 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9.

But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal's first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner.

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