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Rafael Nadal faces Dominic Thiem in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

No Secrets For Nadal And Thiem In Roland Garros SF

Their fourth meeting of 2017 takes places on Friday

It’s fitting that the biggest rivalry of this clay season will conclude on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have already met three times in the past six weeks and will battle one more time on Friday for a spot in the Roland Garros final.

There will be no surprises when they share the court once again. Both players have a healthy respect for each other and the weapons they bring to the court. Nadal acknowledged the Austrian’s power and that he “doesn’t give you a lot of options.” With his massive forehand, backhand and big serve, Thiem is one of very few players with the firepower to make life uncomfortable for Nadal on clay. Meanwhile, Thiem praised Nadal’s forehand as the best in the game and admitted conceding some winners on that side will be unavoidable.  

Players who have defeated Nadal at least twice on clay

Player

Wins

Djokovic, Novak SRB

7

Gaudio, Gaston ARG

3

Fognini, Fabio ITA

2

Ferrer, David ESP

2

Murray, Andy GBR

2

Federer, Roger SUI

2

Thiem, Dominic AUT

2

Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 4-2, with all six of their matches coming on clay. The Spaniard ousted Thiem in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Mutua Madrid Open finals, but the Austrian turned the tables by handing Nadal his only loss on clay this year in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarter-finals. But for Nadal, their past matches mean nothing when they face off again.

“We can have a look at the statistics. We can talk about statistics for hours, but what is important is to consider the match,” said Nadal. “Either you play well and you advance to the next round or you lose and you're out. If I play well, I hope that I will be able to book my spot in the final. If I don't play well, I will be out of the tournament.”

Watch highlights of the last meeting between Nadal and Thiem.

Nadal and Thiem have each had dominant runs to the semi-finals and are in top form. Neither player has dropped a set, but Nadal has been especially efficient. The nine-time Roland Garros champion has lost 22 games in his five rounds, an average of 4.4 per match, and only eight games in his past three matches. In his third round against Nikoloz Basilashvili, he nearly recorded a triple bagel after conceding just a single game.

However, it’s extremely rare for a player to go untested en route to clinching a Grand Slam title. Although Nadal has proved his mental toughness time and again throughout his career, it’s yet to be seen how he will respond to being pushed in a tight set or even dropping one.

For Thiem, the key will be to avoid having a letdown after scoring his first FedEx ATP Head2Head win in six attempts against Djokovic. After defeating Nadal in Rome, he appeared mentally and physically depleted after returning to the court 24 hours later to face Djokovic and lost 6-1, 6-0.

“I have always played way worse the following day if I beat a top guy,” said Thiem. “I hope I can improve that.”

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Experience could also play a role in this match. While Nadal is playing in his 25th Grand Slam semi-final, Thiem is only in his second. The Austrian is 0-1 at this juncture, while Nadal sports a dominant 21-3 record.

However, the 23 year old is no longer content with merely making it to the big matches. He said reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals last year was an achievement in itself, but that he’s now confident in his abilities to consistently go deep in majors.

“Everything was a new sensation for me last year. I could only win, basically. I think it was a little bit more difficult this year,” said Thiem. “I wasn't satisfied with the semis last year, but it was still amazing for me. This year, of course I didn't expect it, but I wanted to go deep. It’s a very different mindset.

“It’s a joke how tough it is to win a slam,” he added. “I beat Novak. On Friday, it’s Nadal. In the final, there is another top star. That's why it's a Grand Slam, because winning one is such a tough achievement.”

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