2018 French Open final preview: Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem

It’s the so called Prince of Clay versus the King of Clay.

Will Dominic Thiem secure a first Grand Slam crown or would it be a staggering eleventh Roland-Garros title for Nadal?

Austria’s Dominic Thiem is into his first ever Grand Slam final and it’s appropriate it had to be at Roland-Garros. Dubbed the Prince of Clay because of his exploits on the surface, Thiem would have a chance to finally claim a French Open title after making the semifinals of the two previous editions.

Can he beat Rafael Nadal, though?

Since clinching the La Coupe des Mousquetaires in his first attempt as a teenager in 2005, Nadal has gone on to dominate the Parisian clay in a way no-one else has. 10 titles in 12 years and an astonishing 85-2 win-loss record lay credence to that.

However, if there’d be a player to subdue the Spaniard here, it’s Dominic Thiem, who over time has proven to be dominant on clay and has arguably, only been bettered by you-know-who.

The Austrian has beaten Nadal thrice on clay, recently a straight sets victory in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open in May. And now even Nadal reckons the 24-year-old will be difficult to play against.

“Thiem is an amazing player. He beat me this year in Madrid with big power,” Nadal said.

Dominic Thiem has been sensational all fortnight in Paris.

“He’s been a very complex opponent. He’s one of the best players in the world on this surface.

“It is going to be tough one but I’m going to fight.”

Nadal and Thiem have faced each other nine times; all nine meetings have been on clay, with the Spaniard leading the head-to-head 6-3.

“He is a big favourite against everybody,” Thiem acknowledged. “Still, I know how to play against him. I have a plan.”

“I have gone a very long way now and I don’t want to lose the finals.”

Nobody wants to lose a final, but against a player who’s 10-0 in finals here, and has lost just two matches in 13 years (against Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015), Thiem must execute that plan to a T, whatever that will cost.

Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favourite here, he’s always been. But in sports, anything can happen.

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