The 2019 French Open final is a rematch of the 2018 final, pitting Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem. Thiem, now arguably the 2nd best player on clay in men’s tennis, is still seeking his first slam title, while Nadal is seeking his 12th RG title (and third in a row). Our panelists Steen Kirby, Harsh Bhoot, Jim Smith, and David Adair offer up their predictions for this Sunday final match.
Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem
Harsh: A final that won’t come as a surprise to many in what proves to be a rewind to last year’s final. Thiem showed laudable grit to clinch that fifth set something he’ll need in lumps to come out trumps against Nadal. The King of Clay played flawless tennis against Fed and there’s no reason to expect anything less. Thiem has troubled Rafa before on clay and the way he’s been playing it’ll be slightly more competitive than last year but Rafa takes No. 12. Nadal in 4
Steen: Thiem has 4 clay wins (and 7 losses) in his career against Rafa, that record is underwater of course, but it’s a competitive enough h2h to suggest this match won’t be a whitewash like last year’s straight sets win for Rafa, Thiem also won the last clay meeting. The biggest challenge for Thiem has been dealing with Rafa at RG where he’s never taken a set off the Spaniard and lost three consecutive matches. While fatigue may play a factor in his performance, the fact he stood tall and put away a feisty Novak Djokovic in five sets will be a confidence booster. Nadal beat Federer in a match that where the conditions were a bigger challenge than the Swiss legend for Rafa. I still expect Rafa to win but Thiem will get his first set off him at RG in this one. Nadal in 4
Jim: Nadal will surely have been watching as Thiem and Novak Djokovic dealt each other hammer blows for a match that lasted over four hours and spanned two days. It surely leaves him in an even better position than he usually finds himself heading into a Roland Garros final. Thiem has the quality to trouble him at his best, but it is hard to imagine playing anything like his best tennis after his exertions in the semifinals. Indeed, he has not had a day off since Wednesday. Don’t expect much of a contest in this one as a result. Nadal in 3
David: There is nothing much more that can be written about Rafael Nadal’s sheer clay majesty. However, small cracks have been starting to show this clay season. Thiem out-muscled Nadal in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 at the semifinal stage in Barcelona. The Austrian looked poised, comfortable and un-phased by Nadal . A mirroring of that approach tomorrow, could produce the first under 30s Slam holder in the modern game.
I am sure commentators and my fellow predictors will be quick to point out the freshness advantage that Nadal will have over Thiem. This is due to Thiem’s marathon semifinal against Djokoic being played over two days. This is pish-posh: it will not disadvantage Thiem at all. He will be ready for the match tomorrow and knows that this is his moment to write history. Last year’s final defeat to Nadal will have taught Thiem a lot about how to prepare (and how not to) both mentally and physically. Thiem will be ready, Thiem will prevail. Thiem in 4