Tennis

94-letters reveal frightening Nadal truth

Thiem’s marathon win over Djokovic1:53

Tennis: Dominic Thiem has recorded a marathon five-set win over top seed Novak Djokovic to book a place in the French open Final.

Andrew McMurtry and James Mattheynews.com.au

The king of clay enters the decider as a hot favourite as Thiem seeks revenge for last year’s loss in the corresponding match at Roland Garros.

Nadal has had more of a break than the Austrian after he disposed of Roger Federer in straight sets in their semi-final on Friday — handing the Swiss his worst loss at a major in 11 years.

Thiem finished his semi against Novak Djokovic on Saturday, more than 24 hours after the match started as poor weather caused plenty of delays.

Courier is tipping Nadal for the win unless Thiem can pull off something special.

“If Nadal plays his normal patterns on clay, best of five, it’s been proven that he’s virtually unbeatable. And that will hold tomorrow unless Thiem does something extraordinary,” Courier said, per the ATP website.

“Thiem’s going to need to take away Rafa’s patterns, so he’s going to need to replicate what Novak does so well against Rafa and stand in the backhand corner, take the ball early, go hard crosscourt to move Nadal out of the centre of the court and then attack with the forehand from there.

“That’s his best chance in the rallies to make damage. Novak has really written the playbook on how to play Rafa if you have a certain skill to take on his forehand.”

Dominic Thiem will have his hands full against Nadal.

Dominic Thiem will have his hands full against Nadal.Source:Getty Images

Nadal admits the prospect of winning a 12th Roland Garros title and 18th major on Sunday would have once just seemed liked an “incredible” dream in a career so often at the mercy of a succession of morale-sapping injuries.

However, he knows he cannot underestimate Thiem. The world No. 4 has four wins on clay over the 33-year-old Spaniard — only Djokovic has more.

The 25-year-old arrives in the final having shocked world No. 1 Djokovic in a five-set semi-final on Saturday, ending the Serb’s 26-match winning run at grand slams.

“Yes, it’s incredible to be here again to be honest,” said Nadal, who has never lost a Roland Garros final and boasts a 92-2 record at the tournament since his 2005 debut.

The ludicrous nature of that record was summed up in a tweet by Brydon Coverdale, who used 94 letters to sum it up. When 92 of those letters are W, it makes it plainly clear why few are expecting Nadal to lose.

“It is very special and difficult to explain, but here we are. And the day that we start thinking about if it’s incredible or not probably will be the day to do another thing.”

Nadal has hardly broken sweat at the French Open this year, making the final for the loss of just one set, against David Goffin in the third round.

Against Federer in the semi-finals, he conceded just nine games, handing the Swiss his worst slam loss in 11 years.

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“There is nobody who even plays remotely close to Rafa,” admitted Federer. “I don’t even know who I need to go search for to go practice with somebody who plays like him.”

Victory on Sunday will move Nadal on to 18 majors, just two behind Federer on the all-time list.

He is also the best part of five years younger than his old rival. “This is something I never dreamed about five, six, eight years ago, but it’s happening today,” said Nadal who has been written off numerous times in his career.

Nadal celebrates making yet another Grand Slam Final.

Nadal celebrates making yet another Grand Slam Final.Source:AFP

WHEN’S IT ON?

The French Open men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem is scheduled to start at 11pm AEST.

HOW CAN YOU WATCH?

The match will be on Fox Sports 505 or available for streaming on Kayo Sports. Click here for your free 14-day trial.

On free-to-air TV, the match will start after the Matilda’s World Cup match against Italy on SBS.

JOURNEY SO FAR

Rafael Nadal

R1: Yannick Hanfmann — 6-2 6-1 6-3

R2: Yannick Maden — 6-1 6-2 6-4

R3: 27-David Goffin — 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3

R4: Juan Ignacio Londero — 6-2 6-3 6-3

QF: 7-Kei Nishikori — 6-1 6-1 6-3

SF: 3-Roger Federer — 6-3 6-4 6-2

Dominic Thiem

R1: Tommy Paul — 6-4 4-6 7-6 6-2

R2: Alexander Bublik — 6-3 6-7 6-3 7-5

R3: Pablo Cuevas — 6-4 4-6 6-2 7-5

R4: 14-Gael Monfils — 6-4 6-4 6-2

QF: 10-Karen Khachanov — 6-2 6-4 6-2

SF: 1-Novak Djokovic — 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5

GRAND SLAM RECORD

Nadal

11 French Open titles

Thiem

1 Grand Slam Final (2018 French Open)

HEAD-TO-HEAD

12 meetings — Nadal leads 8-4

LAST MEETING

April 28, 2019: Barcelona Open semi-final — Thiem 6-4 6-4

— with AFP

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