Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 3-1 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Interesting here now as Nadal retreats to his chair at 30-0 up showing his fingers to the chair umpire. It looks like Nadal’s fingers are cramping. He tries to take off the plasters masking his blisters. His wrist bandaging is removed and his trainer assists with some light massaging.
Against Schwartzman he called the trainer to put some heavy dressing on his wrists to mop up excess sweat but this looks like a cramping issue. He takes a couple of pills, has a few gulps of drink and then returns to the service line. It’s been nearly three minutes since the last point. He strikes a tame serve into the net but then is back in working order for the next point, hitting a volley from the net. He’s got to get through this game before he can receive any further treatment. He holds but now has to wait for Thiem’s service game before the changeover.
Nadal* 6-4, 6-3, 2-1 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem still producing some unbelievable winners, a low backhand cross court for 30-0 but it’s the error count which allows Nadal to keep gnawing at Thiem’s service game and turning the game on its head with three straight points to edge to break point. Thiem keeps his head to dink a drop shot and follows it up with a drilled forehand with Nadal charging the opposite end. It moves Thiem to advantage and the Austrian is having to work so, so hard for every point. He thinks about making the same play again, but this time Nadal reads the return and is there to strike a forehand winner down the line. That was unlucky for the seventh seed, we’re back to deuce. An ace, his sixth of the final edges him back in front. But Nadal runs round a backhand to strike a beautiful forehand cross court for another deuce. This time Thiem’s explosiveness gets the better of him and he strikes a thunderous reply into the middle. Can Nadal take advantage this time? Yes he can. Thiem retrieves a deep, deep forehand but can’t control his reply. NADAL BREAKS.
Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 1-1 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Steady play from Nadal as he recovers from a double fault to move to 40-15. A strong serve out wide brings up game. The pressure is put back on Thiem in a flash.
Nadal* 6-4, 6-3, 0-1 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem annoyed at dropping a lung-busting baseline duel at the start of the third set responds by yanking out the label in his navy blue t-shirt. We’ve all been there when irritated by a clothing label. The irritation from the shirt has gone, but the irritation staring back at him from the opposite side of the net. Nadal races to three break points owned much to a few unforced errors. He saves one with a forehand winner and then another with an outswinging serve and forehand down the line which is too good for Nadal to retrieve. A pump of the fists now from Thiem as Nadal swings a groundstroke long but then Nadal has another break point when Thiem pushes a forehand long. As the clock passes the two-hour mark, Thiem saves another break with a timely first serve and then gets the crowd involved again with a brilliant get at the net. In fairness it wasn’t the cleanest of winners but the spectators respect the effort he’s putting in. And a delicious backhand comes up trumps as Thiem digs deep to hold.
Nadal 6-4, 6-3 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Glorious sunshine now on Philippe Chatrier as Thiem tries a different approach to dealing with a Nadal serve by sticking his racket above his head and batting back the reply. It doesn’t come off. Great serving from Nadal takes him to two set points. He only needs one as Thiem loops a reply into the tramlines. NADAL WINS SECOND SET.
Nadal* 6-4, 5-3 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem looks gratefully up at his corner again at watching one forehand land long for 40-15. He could do with conserving his energy trying to break Nadal next time out. He holds to 30. Now what can he muster?
Nadal 6-4, 5-2 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Bravo Thiem. The Austrian goes toe-to-toe with Nadal in a gruelling baseline duel and wins through with an outswinging forehand. The athleticism of both men is incredible now as they glide around the Philippe Chatrier Court. This time Nadal the victor with a whipped forehand which lands flush on the line. It’s only 15-all but the standard of this game has been immense so far.
Boom. Nadal steps in to take advantage of a short return, sending a thunderous volley into the corner. He shows his human side by missing the next regulation forehand as Thiem creeps back at 30-all. Thiem battles his way to break point with a deft drop shot as both men crank up the volume on their grunting levels. But whatever Thiem can send down, Nadal ups his level. The Austrian looks to have got the better of the Spaniard with some neat net play only for the Spaniard to step up again and dispatch a winner. Another crowd-pleasing rally ends in Nadal’s favour as Thiem is sent chasing after lost causes again. Nadal finally holds as Thiem can’t make a forehand. What courage from both players.
Nadal* 6-4, 4-2 Thiem (*denotes next server)
A nonchalant flick of the wrists and a backhand down the line move Thiem to 30-0 and a carbon copy stroke eases him to three game points. Great effort Thiem. He holds to love again.
Nadal 6-4, 4-1 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
A couple of loose groundstrokes from Nadal hand Thiem an opening at 0-30. Nadal keeps working Thiem’s backhand and then goes for the killer shot on the forehand. Thiem gets the reply back, but Nadal mops up the replay scooping a backhand winner down the line.
A body serve sets Nadal up for the next point for 30-all and from a position of danger, Nadal turns the game on its head with four straight points. Thiem draws to deuce with a forehand service return winner. The Austrian tries a similar stroke at advantage Nadal but can’t repeat the trick a second time.
Nadal* 6-4, 3-1 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem strikes a booming backhand to pass the net-rushing Nadal and backs it up with his fourth ace of the match for a comfortable 40-0 lead. A timely first serve secures a love hold.
Nadal 6-4, 3-0 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Thiem isn’t getting the rub of the green today. A strike of the tape sees the ball fly up only to land in his half and it draws another vocal response from the agitated 24-year-old. When Thiem gets anxious he starts to strike the ball even harder and making further errors. Nadal maintains his cool head at the opposite end, steadily working his way to 40-15 and wrapping up game with a booming backhand cross court.
Nadal* 6-4, 2-0 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Nadal making inroads into Thiem’s serve as the Austrian shows sign of fatigue here to trail 0-30.
Thiem smashes a volley into the corner but during the next play is beaten by Nadal’s superior movement as the Spaniard advances to net to dispatch his own volley for two break points.
A great second serve from Thiem keeps Nadal at bay for the first. And sound net play after lovely offensive play brings Thiem back to deuce. The great champion that Nadal is manages to eek out a third break point but Thiem won’t lie down. An ace down the T moves Thiem to game point but he throws in a fourth double of the match to allow Nadal another free point – and at a crucial moment.
Nadal’s forehand is proving a big beast for Thiem to get on top of and the Spaniard keeps knocking on the door with another break point. This time he finally wears down the seventh seed as Thiem hits wide. NADAL BREAKS.
Nadal 6-4, 1-0 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Another inexplicable miss from Thiem, this time a smash into the net from the baseline at the start of the second set hasn’t helped the Austrian’s mood. He’s not done much wrong today, just Nadal has played the bigger points and caused damage on Thiem’s second serve. The Spaniard meanwhile has been serving well and mixing things up. He throws is a looping drop shot which Thiem strikes into the net again for 40-15. It’s the only point dropped off his serve.
Nadal* 6-4 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem thinks about thwacking his racket to the dirt but holds off from causing any damage after striking into the net from close range. There’s pressure now as Thiem sends a groundstroke into the tramlines and he shakes his head in disbelief. The crowd sense something is afoot. How are your nerves now, Dominic? Not good, as he slaps another forehand into the tape and his emotion is pouring out now. It hands Nadal three set points. He blazes a forehand well long. NADAL BREAKS TO WIN THE FIRST SET.
Nadal 5-4 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Oor er. Now it’s Nadal’s turn to double fault, his first of the match. Luckily for him it hands Thiem back at 15-all and normal service is resumed as a whipped cross court forehand brings up two game points. Another solid first serve takes him one game away from the first set.
Nadal* 4-4 Thiem (*denotes next server)
A shot of the watching Zinedine Zidane on Chatrier draws a ripple of applause from the crowd as Thiem lines up for his next service game. Nadal stands rigid on the baseline and his balance shifting the other way as Thiem’s shot selection throws him off again for 30-0. An ace down the middle is followed by another double and Thiem’s second serve percentage is low at 47 right now.
Luckily for him, his trusty forehand is still in sound working order. A much easier hold than last time out.
Nadal 4-3 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Thiem has a couple of looks up to his corner on Philippe Chatrier in part frustration and part respect at watching what Nadal is capable of producing at the opposite end. Thiem steps in court and scampers back to the corner, improvises, tries the ‘hot-dog’ shot with no luck but at least he’s prepared to mix things up. It’s an easy hold to 15 for the great clay master though.
Nadal* 3-3 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem tries his service luck out wide only for Nadal to get into the rally and punish him with his bruising forehand. The seventh seed throws Nadal off balance by mopping up the next service return and sending the Spaniard the wrong way but then allows the 10-time champion here back with an unforced error for 30-all.
Nadal makes one fantastic get on his forehand but Thiem steps in to dispatch a forehand winner down the line to edge back in front. Thiem injects pace into the next rally drawing Nadal to go down the line. Thiem doesn’t make the return but the chair umpire comes down to inspect and calls the ball good. It brings the game back to deuce. A couple of deuces later and Thiem is back in control again with another forehand into the corner which Nadal can’t reach. That’s been a productive play for Thiem so far. Yet Nadal keeps up the battle and earns the break point when Thiem pushes wide. Great movement play from Thiem saves the break but the Austrian’s paying the price for missing his first serve. Another error hands Nadal a second break point but there’s still no end in sight to this game after 11 minutes. A quite brilliant rally goes in Thiem’s favour as the seventh seed draws Nadal to the net and then steps inside for a lunge-volleyed winner. The Austrian finally holds as Nadal sends a service return long. What a hold.
Nadal 3-2 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Thiem shouts out a naughty word in frustration at one error and then drops his head in disappointment after chasing down a Nadal drop shot only to see the Spaniard loop a reply over his head and inside the baseline. Ouch, that would have hurt him. ‘What’s that?’ he mouths at missing the next service return and Nadal keeps his composure to move 40-15 up. Despite a pull into the tramlines, normal service is resumed and we remain back on serve this set.
Nadal* 2-2 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem confidence building with every point now. The Austrian charges down another short ball to dispatch a winner but then allows Nadal back level with his first double fault of the match.
Nadal works his magic from behind the line, making the most of a ball that sits up close to the baseline to strike a curling forehand for 15-30. Nadal fails to get a clean strike on a slower second serve to miss an opening at 30-all but another double, his second of the game hands Nadal another free point for deuce.
Thiem’s concentration level takes a dip as he gets caught in two minds and hands Nadal break point by slicing a back hand into the middle. He saves the danger with a timely first serve and then edges back in front with an ace down the ‘T’. But Nadal won’t go away. A scorching backhand is too good for Thiem to even think about moving towards. Finally Thiem strings together two points to hold.
Nadal 2-1 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Thiem is left squatting an age at the opposite end as Nadal goes through his lengthy service rhythm but a couple of errors from the Spaniard allow him an opening at 15-30.
A lung-busting rally ends when Thiem strikes a blistering forehand winner cross court to set up his own two break points. A mishit off that same wing sees the first break point go by but Thiem shows his aggression straight from a second serve to dictate play and punches a volleyed winner into the corner. THIEM BREAKS.
Nadal* 2-0 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Nadal standing almost against the back wall lining up to receive a Thiem first serve. Even a second serve he opts to hang back. Nadal makes it six straight points at the start of the final with a delicate drop shot. Thiem puts on his sprinting boots but can’t make the pick up. Thiem finally lands his first point for 15-30 when he puts an injection of pace on a backhand and catches Nadal out.
Thiem works Nadal well next, pushing him deep to one corner but then pushes a forehand long to hand Nadal two break points. Nadal makes the early break as Nadal slaps into the middle. The Austrian is tight, unsurprisingly. NADAL BREAKS.
Nadal 1-0 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
It’s hot, humid and cloudy in Paris as Thiem decides to receive first. Nadal works the Thiem backhand during the first point to draw the level before a few crazy shout outs from the crowd briefly hold up Nadal’s next service rotation.
Nadal serving and striking the ball well early on. A couple of forehands into the corner cause Thiem problems and he wraps up a love hold with a volley at the net.
Here come the players
Dominic Thiem walks on to Philippe Chatrier for his first ever grand slam final. Rafa Nadal strolls out, acknowledging the crowd with his left arm.
Paying tribute to the man himself Roland Garros
Ahead of the final there’s a ceremony tribute to the aviation pioneer and war hero Roland Garros, who died 100 years ago this year.
Thiem needs to avoid handing Nadal free points
Thiem has surprisingly made 29 double faults in just six matches en route to the final. It largely depends on when these faults are made, but the Austrian mustn’t give Nadal any free points today to. Nerves will be a factor, though, in his first slam final.
Nadal has made 17 double faults and dropped served nine times throughout the championships so far – one less than Thiem.
There’s not much between the two men when it comes to break points saved and break points won either.
Break points saved = 21/30
Break Points won = 35/72
Break points saved = 35/45
Break points won = 36/76
Thiem ‘is an animal physically’
Three-time French Open champion and Eurosport commentator Mats Wilander believes Thiem can worry Nadal if he takes risks like Schwartzman did in the quarter-finals.
“The only way to beat Rafa on clay is to take risks… to over-achieve you have to over-play and risk more than you feel comfortable doing.
“If Thiem can do that and build enough hope in the first hour, hour and a half, maybe get the first set he can make it physical like he did in Madrid. I’m not sure if Thiem and Rafa had a run in the Bois de Boulogne that Rafa would win.
“Thiem is an animal physically and in terms of hitting the ball hard on the forehand.”
World No 1 ranking at stake
If Nadal improves his head-to-head record against Thiem to seven wins from 10 this afternoon, the Spaniard will also retain the world No 1 ranking. Lose and the baton is handed back to Roger Federer who makes his return to the court this week – a grass one at that – in Stuttgart.
Thiem, meanwhile, currently ranked eight in the world but seventh seed in Paris, will climb one place in the official standings regardless of today’s outcome.
If the 24-year-old does upset Nadal, he would also become just the ninth man in the Open Era to beat the top two seeds at a grand slam – after taking out second seed Alexander Zverev in the quarters.
How can Thiem overcome the King of Clay?
When you’re facing a man whose record in Paris stands at 85-2, you’ve got to have the self belief that you’re capable of going toe-to-toe with the claycourt king – and then some. That’s the view of two-time French Open champion Jim Courier who has given an insight into how Thiem can help his cause today. Here’s a snippet.
Dominic needs to serve in such a way that takes his opponent off the court. He needs to start the rallies from as offensive a point as possible against Nadal. So where he moves Nadal with his serve will be very important.
Nadal is most dangerous from the middle of the court, so Thiem needs to avoid serving there. Even though on the ad court that’s the backhand which is normally what most players would target for Nadal. I still think it’s more important for him to sacrifice getting aces or free points for getting Nadal out of position away from the centre of the court. That’s the key thing to be aware of when serving.
You can serve to hit aces and winners, or you can serve to hit set-up shots so your next shot after your serve is more effective. This incidentally is what Nadal does so well.
Will Thiem make it a weekend of first-timers?
After Simona Halep won a maiden grand slam in the women’s singles yesterday, what chance does Dominic Thiem have this afternoon of making it a weekend of first-timers?
Rafael Nadal, the 10-time champion only stands in the Austrian’s path of winning a major in his first ever slam final. No pressure there then.
But Thiem has form against the Spaniard. He’s the only player to beat Nadal on clay in the past two years – in Rome last year and in Madrid last month. This season no other player, not even the undisputed King of Clay, can count as many match wins on the red dirt as Thiem.
Fair enough Thiem was demolished by Nadal in last year’s semi-final in Paris but today’s seventh seed has added more aggression and self belief to his game. Thiem looks like he belongs on the big stage – but will he take that confidence into a showdown against Nadal who has only ever lost twice on the big Philippe Chatrier Court?
Diego Schwartzman has come closest this fortnight to become the third man to beat Nadal in Paris. The Argentine ended Nadal’s run of 37 consecutive sets in a rain-delayed quarter-final before the Spaniard won the contest upon the resumption on Thursday under glorious blue skies.
The weather could yet play it’s part in today’s final. It is expected to be slightly overcast with light winds and a temperature of around the mid 20s. There is a slight chance of rain, but not until later in the afternoon after 5pm.
Can you see Thiem denying Nadal a record-extending 11th title at Roland Garros? I can’t see past another Nadal victory but believe Thiem will take a set off the great man.
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