Lets get down to the nitty gritty. I love that phrase. Rafa Nadal has never lost a French Open Final and this will be his 12thfinal in Paris. That’s a crazy number. His only two losses at Roland Garros were to an out of this world performance from Robin Soderling in 2009 and a locked in Novak Djokovic in 2015.
Tonight the Spaniard will try to win his 18thGrand Slam against the same player he straight setted in last years’ final, Dominic Thiem from Austria. Through the messed up schedule because of the rain, Thiem has been forced to play four days in a row and played three brutal sets in beating Djokovic yesterday, he has a daunting task.
Why Rafa will win
As evidenced in a windy semi final against Roger Federer, Rafa can adapt his game on this surface for any conditions and any opponent. Regardless he’s going to make Thiem run, and then run some more, he has the uncanny ability to make his opponent either go for too much or not enough, it’s the players who get the balance right against him that give him strife, but on the clay even if Rafa is spraying balls he’ll go into defense mode and just get everything back, waiting for the mistake, watch for the forehand up the line, he’s used it more since Carlos Moya joined the team, Rafa will win if he plays like Rafa.
Why Thiem will win
This will take a herculean effort from Thiem to win this match, the level of intensity it takes to defeat Nadal over a best of five set match in Paris wears you down, it’s practically unsustainable for 3 hours as Nadal is like a dog with a bone and just won’t let up but Theim has the game to bully anyone, he should learn from last years’ drubbing to Nadal of not what to do, he’s raised his game considerably the last 3 rounds with wins over Monfils, Khachanov and Djokovic, the backhand up the line is a thing of beauty, watch out for the kick serve, it’s wicked, if Theim can redline is game and also win the right points at the end of the sets he’ll win, the margin is slim but still there.
Rafa leads the head to heads 8-4, on clay its 7-4 also in favor of Rafa, the last clay meeting was weeks ago in Barcelona which Thiem won 6-4, 6-4. Of all the wins the Austrian has over Rafa they’ve all been on clay, that proves he has the game to do it, the problem is the circumstances of the last four days suggests he’s likely worn out. If he’s not there’s no doubt he can win this, one thing is for sure, Thiem is going to go for his shots, if they don’t go in he’ll just go for it some more, that’s his style, power tennis, I see him hanging around through sets 3 and 4, he is younger, by seven years, but again it all depends if he’s fatigued or not. I’m going with Rafa in 4 sets, but look out if it becomes a grind and gets to 5 sets, we could see a new Champion.