Thiem Ready For 'Ultimate Challenge' In Roland Garros Final
Austrian will meet Nadal for second straight year in championship match
After beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in five sets to reach his second consecutive Roland Garros final, Dominic Thiem quickly turned his attention towards his final opponent: 11-time champion Rafael Nadal.
The 25-year-old, who is the first Austrian to reach multiple Grand Slam finals, secured his third win against Djokovic in their four most recent FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings in dramatic fashion. In his first five-set match at Roland Garros, Thiem overcame multiple rain delays and an overnight suspension of play to secure his third win over a top-ranked player in the ATP Rankings.
"It was an epic match," said Thiem. "So many ups and downs and rain, going back to the locker [room and] on court again. I had the feeling that I had the lead in the whole match, and then at the end it got so tough... both of us could [have won], and I luckily got the better [of him] in the end."
Now just one win away from his maiden Grand Slam title, Thiem will face Nadal in a repeat of last year's championship match. The World No. 4 will be aiming to end Nadal's 11-0 unbeaten record in Roland Garros championship matches, after beating the 17-time Grand Slam champion en route to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell trophy in April.
"To play Rafa here on this court, is always the ultimate challenge, one of the toughest challenges sports in general give," said Thiem. "I played a really good match against him in Barcelona. It was six weeks ago. So, of course, I [will] try to do similar even though it's way tougher to play him here.
"But I [will] try to keep all the positive emotions I'm having right now, I'm having from this amazing match today, and go with a really positive mind into the match tomorrow, and then we'll see."
The Austrian is no stranger to success against Nadal. Thiem's win in Barcelona marked the fourth straight year that he had overcome the Spaniard on his most successful surface, following wins in Buenos Aires (2016), Rome (2017) and Madrid (2018). Thiem is one of only two players, alongside Djokovic (7), to have beaten Nadal on four or more occasions on the red dirt.
"I had some very good matches in the past against him on clay, and I also beat him on clay already [this year]," said Thiem. "I think it's really important that I go into the match with the belief to win. That's the most important thing... It's a big dream for me to win that match tomorrow, to win this title."
The World No. 4 was keen to dismiss claims that fatigue may play a part in the outcome of the final, in what will be his fourth straight day of action after poor weather in Paris played havoc with the schedule. Alongside his five-set win over Djokovic, Thiem was taken to four sets in each of his opening three matches of the tournament.
"I feel good. Luckily I didn't have so many long matches before today," said Thiem. "Today and yesterday, of course, was tough. It's probably a little bit more difficult to play these four hours with all the interruptions than if you played in one time.
"But still, I'm feeling fine. I'm full of adrenaline, of course, still from today's match, and also I will have that tomorrow. So I'm not going to be tired. It's all going to come after the tournament. I'm ready to leave all, or everything I have, out on the court tomorrow."
Thiem will be keen to improve on his straight-sets loss to Nadal in last year's final. If he becomes only the third man to defeat Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam (Soderling, Djokovic), the 13-time tour-level titlist will join Thomas Muster as the second Austrian to win a Grand Slam title.
"I'm only looking ahead for tomorrow's match. It's an unbelievable opportunity," said Thiem. "I said last year that I hope to get another chance in a Grand Slam final and hope to do better then, so tomorrow there is the chance."