So after two months and two weeks of clay court tennis, the last two standing for the biggest prize are probably the two guys we thought we’d see here in this spot, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.
I had Alexander Zverev at the start, but the German was once again left shaking his head after another disappointing Grand Slam performance. But Thiem in the final is no slouch.
The Austrian has played tough all tournament and he comes into his very first Grand Slam final full of confidence. After all, he’s beaten Rafa twice in the past two years most recently last month in Madrid. And he’s on a nice 10-match win streak. So he’s got to be feeling about as good as he can.
Meanwhile, Rafa’s also in good form. He just demolished Juan Martin Del Potro and other than a sketchy first 90 minutes against Diego Schwartzman, all is well in Rafa’s house, which just so happens to be Court Philippe Chatrier.
Nadal and Thiem are meeting for a 10th time and all 10 will have been on clay. Rafa is up 6-3 but as I mentioned Thiem did beat him in their last meeting. A fresh-in-Rafa’s-mind meeting. Uh oh!
So, breaking this match down…
If Rafa serves well, he wins. If Rafa doesn’t serve well, he probably still wins.
Thiem’s best chance is to hope Rafa has an off day or gets injured (remember when Stan made his first Slam final and had to play Rafa who injured his back in warm-up? Thiem needs that!). Unlike a Del Potro, Thiem can’t really hit Rafa off the court. He plays too deep and he doesn’t have that 6-foot-6 Delpo-power. But the Austrian still can slug the ball, however when he hits from a position well behind the baseline against a top player, it doesn’t work as well.
That said, I think Theim will give Rafa some problems from the ground and get Rafa moving with those angles he can hit. But he has to step into the court!
In the end, though, I just don’t think Thiem’s game and his serve will hold up under the constant pressure and assault from Rafa. Also, this being his first final and having to do the unthinkable – beating Nadal in a French final – is asking too much. If it were a quarterfinal or a best-of-3, maybe. But in a final, in a best-of-5 and on clay? Nope. Not this year, but maybe next year? Yes!
Thiem will be fit though and I think he’ll do far better than he did a year ago when Nadal blasted him off the court 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
One more thing that could help Thiem are the conditions. Hot and sunny gives Rafa the edge. If it’s wet and heavy, maybe that helps Dominic out a little. And there is rain in the forecast.
I know we’ve heard about Rafa being better than ever, but I just don’t buy that. He’s great and still the best on clay, but the competition is nowhere near what it was 4-5 years ago, sorry. And Rafa sliced through some of those fields like a hot knife through I can’t believe it’s not butter.
In saying that, he is vulnerable and I think he can be defeated because I did see him miss and odd shot here and there – like we saw against Schwartzman and even Bolelli and Marterer got him on his heels a bit. So if they can do it, why not Thiem?
I dunno, maybe Dominic embraces the challenge and the moment of playing in a first Grand Slam final, and he shocks the world? But to do that, I still think he’ll need some help from Rafa. But I just don’t think after Rafa just lost to him in Spain, he lets his guard down again.
The Pick: Nadal in 4
NBC will have the coverage starting at 9am ET. Rain is in the forecast so let’s see how that impacts things. If it does rain a bit, I think we might see five sets!
Either way, I think we’ll get a good match, much like we did today with Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens – how can you not feel happy for Simona after coming from a set and a break down to win her first Slam. Great stuff!
One top seed/world No. 1 won, will the other follow suit?
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