Tennis Prose



Can Dominic Thiem Beat King of Clay Nadal at 2019 Roland Garros?

Back in 2008, Rafael Nadal was dubbed the “King of Clay” – he wasn’t by any means the first player to be awarded this title, but there’s little doubt that he’s the most successful and the undisputed “King of Clay,” with eleven French Open titles to his name.

One such player, aiming to emulate and strip Rafa of his French Open title later this month is Austrian, Dominic Thiem. At 25-years-old, the ATP world number 4 is seven years younger than his rival and has upset him before, as we will go on to mention.

Even Rafa’s coach, Carlos Moya claims that Thiem is the one that is feared most: “Taking away Rafa, he is the most specialist. Historically, Nadal has been given good players with backhand at one hand, but in the case of Thiem is an important weapon that has served to beat him several times on clay, in fact, in the last two years he’s the only one who has beaten Nadal in clay.”

French Open 2018

In last year’s Open, the two titans collided in the final, the former world number 1 emerged victorious in straight sets: 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to claim his eleventh French Open title and seventeenth Grand Slam – only three behind Roger Federer.

Despite needing treatment on his wrist before the duel, Rafa edged the first set which was a fairly close encounter. Although the score-line may suggest otherwise, it wasn’t plain-sailing for the Spaniard, who suffered with cramps in the third set and also missed four points on his serve. In the end, Rafa was unplayable, causing Thiem to withstand heavy pressure and run out of energy, as well as make mistakes on his backhand, considered his most deadly weapon. In the end, it was clear that Thiem was overwhelmed by his opponent but after the game he said: “What you have done – to win this tournament eleven times – is one of the greatest things in sport. I hope I soon get another chance here – maybe against you.”

Thiem v Nadal head-to-head

On clay, the two have met eleven times, with Nadal leading with seven wins to Thiem’s four. We’ll run through these now:

In 2016, Thiem beat Nadal on clay for the first time, winning the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires in the process. He met Nadal in the semi-final and won two sets to one: 6-4, 4-6, 7-6, before going onto win the final against another Spaniard, Nicolás Almagro.

Thiem was victorious against his rival in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in Rome, in 2017. He won in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, before coming unstuck against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals in a 6-1, 6-0 white-wash.

Last year, Thiem faced Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open and once again tasted victory. His straight set victory of 7-5, 6-3 set up a semi-final against South African Kevin Anderson, but he eventually lost the final to fellow rising-star, Alexander Zverev.

Only last month Thiem won his most recent clash on clay against Nadal – on the court named after him at the Barcelona Open. The Austrian won his semi-final in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 and the following day, beat Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final.


There’s no doubt that Nadal is the one to beat now that he has won Rome yesterday by impressively defeating Novak Djokovic 60 46 61.  Thiem is highly regarded as one of the best players in the world on the surface and having already beaten his rival on clay this year. Many tennis experts rate Thiem as a strong contender to lift the French Open trophy. Still, Thiem has yet to prove he can win a major title, when the pressure and stakes are the highest. Thiem has won nine clay titles thirteen ATP titles overall. Watch this space.

You can find all the latest French Open betting markets online.

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  • Hartt · May 20, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Beating Rafa at RG is a huge task, but a few players have achieved it, so it is not totally impossible. I will be rooting for Thiem. He has plenty of time to rest and to prepare for RG. As great as Rafa is, it is time for a new RG champion.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 20, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    To try and put into perspective what Nadal has done, consider what Johan Kriek said to me about Facing Guillermo Vilas in Paris, he said the best win of his career was over Vilas. “I won 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 after being up 5-3 serving in the fourth set! I can honestly say that winning that match on a hot French center court with screaming Parisians was by far the most difficult both mentally and physically for me. So much so that I could not get out of bed the next day. I consider it the best win of my career. I was so stiff and so beat up I stayed in bed all day and just slept. I had to take three injections before the semi finals against Ivan Lendl and very few people know the true story about what had happened to me. It was a cold and misty day and the temperature on the court was so low they allowed us for the first time in French Open history to play with full tracksuits on! Bill Norris, the ATP trainer, brought a boiling hot hydroculator out to the court long before our match so I could try and keep my arm warm to allow me to at least try to play. As you can see from the score I won three games against Lendl. I did not explain my true situation during the press interview afterwards as I didn’t want to make excuses for my loss. I took a lot of negative press due to that. I withdrew from Queens and Wimbledon and flew back to Naples, Florida. It took me six weeks to recover physically. 1986 was the only Wimbledon I missed in 36 years. To try to understand winning eleven French Opens like Nadal already did is simply out of this world and a record that will not be broken in my lifetime…”

  • catherine · May 20, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Johan Kriek played at Wimbledon for 36 years ?
    Surely not 🙂

    More on RG : Bianca A has been training at Nadal’s place in Mallorca and is looking forward to Paris. I can’t wait to see the draw.

  • Hartt · May 21, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Rebecca Marino is continuing her successful comeback. She flew to Paris right after the Japan tourney, and got the last spot for the RG qualies. She is now at No.144 in the rankings, her highest since coming back. I think she has a good shot at making the top 100 this season.

    There is a charming photo of her giving a high five to a little boy in the crowd after her win. I wish I could post it here.

    “The 28-year-old Canadian, who began her remarkable comeback to the sport 16 months ago following a nearly five-year layoff, capped off a dominant week at the ITF 60k event in Kurume, Japan with a 6-4, 7-6(0) win over qualifier Yuki Naito.” (Tennis Canada site)

  • catherine · May 21, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Hartt – I saw a piece on Rebecca, can’t remember where, she’s doing really well and I hope she can make the top 100.

    I read the quotes from Bianca on ubitennis but there’s probably more in the Canadian media. Don’t know how she’s going to cope with the pressure at RG and having been away for a few weeks but her presence is going to be needed – the women’s draw needs some spark to it, apart from Serena and can Angie win her 4th GS ? Don’t think Angie will do it – would be nice but maybe too late. Serena might find the 2 weeks tough as well.

  • Hartt · May 21, 2019 at 10:21 am

    I don’t have high expectations for Bianca at RG, going in with no match play. Her original goal was to be in the main draw, so she must be thrilled with being seeded.

    I agree that women’s tennis needs the spark that Bianca can provide.

    There are reports that Serena’s knee injury could be serious, but I guess we will know once the tournament begins.

  • catherine · May 21, 2019 at 11:04 am

    I think it is the cartilage and it’s the kind of injury which often brings careers to a close. Shame.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 21, 2019 at 11:41 am

    But Serena’s knee was fine in that match vs Peterson and she moved fine and won without showing any pain or injury timeout.

  • catherine · May 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Serena didn’t have to do much running in that match, not really punishing rallies, and she might be used to putting up with a certain amount of pain now, as it’s a chronic condition.

    But as Hartt says, we’ll find out when the tournament starts.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 21, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    We know the only way Serena will quit tennis is when her body betrays her. Her fighting spirit will never cease a millimeter. She is as fiercely hungry for success as she ever was, maybe more so now than ever because that Margaret Court record is within grasp. She still loves to compete and she’s doing it for all the mothers and working mothers. It could be the cruel irony and poetic justice that Serena’s body has hit the wall at just the wrong time. She can still beat the Petersons and Azarenkas of the world but not the elites over two weeks. I think that brutal physical match vs Azarenka in IW was perhaps Serena’s last surge of greatness.

  • Hartt · May 21, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    FAA won a close match over Millman, taking the first set TB, and then finally breaking to win the 2nd set 7-5. Both players had BP chances during the match but could not convert. FAA played quite well, serving well, but he had too many UFEs.

    But still a good start in Lyon for the youngster. He had good crowd support. He won the Lyon Challenger as a 16-year-old and then defended that title the following year. Perhaps some of the fans saw him then. And of course they like the fact that his native tongue is French.



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