Rafael Nadal v Dominic Thiem: French Open 2018 men’s final – live!

thiem nadal

Rafa Nadal has been in 10 French Open finals. He’s yet to lose one. He beat Mariano Puerto for his first in 2005 and since then he’s seen off Roger Federer four times, Novak Djokovic twice and Robin Soderling, David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka, who was no match for him last year. Put it that way and you can be forgiven for feeling that Dominic Thiem might be better off staying in the locker room. A Nadal win today would see him equal Margaret Court’s record of 11 titles at one grand slam – the Australian’s came in the Australian Open and bridged the amateur and professional eras.

It is not inconceivable – indeed, it is likely – that Rafael Nadal will finish his career with more French Open titles than Novak Djokovic has majors, and he should take the aggregation to 11 on Sunday, regardless of the quality of his opponent, Dominic Thiem.

The 24-year-old Austrian, widely considered the second-best player on clay right now, has a decent record against Nadal and, for the second year in a row, he is the only player to have beaten the Spaniard on clay coming into Roland Garros, after snapping his run of 50 sets in a row when they met in the quarter-finals in Madrid last month. That streak began after Thiem beat him in Rome last year.

They have only ever played each other on clay. Nadal has won six of those, two in finals in straight sets, and in both of their matches here, in the second round in 2014 and the semi-finals last year.

So, if a player as good on clay as Thiem is still struggling for parity with Nadal, and there is no other obvious contender to trouble him, his path to at least 13 or 14 French titles would seem to be one covered in rose petals – if he stays healthy. Robin Söderling, one of two players to beat him at Roland Garros (alongside Djokovic), made that call earlier in the week, and he should know.

Can Djokovic, idling with 12 majors, get back on the board? Perhaps. But he has not won a grand slam since he beat Andy Murray here two years ago. Although he came to life again in this tournament, he lost to the man from nowhere, Marco Cecchinato, ranked 72 in the world, in a 22-minute tie-break that catapulted the Italian into the semi‑finals, where he ran out of steam against Thiem on Friday.

The Serb has a deal of work to do to get back to the stratospheric levels he reached before his right elbow gave up on him so spectacularly last year.

There was cause for concern, also, when Nadal quit with a leg injury in the fifth set of his quarter-final against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open this year, heightened when he then withdrew from hard‑court tournaments in Acapulco, Indian Wells and Miami – but he has blossomed on the red dirt of Europe. Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome fell at his feet again, with just that single blip in Madrid.

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