Orchestrating a clay court win against Rafael Nadal is the most difficult task in tennis.
No one has defeated Rafael Nadal more times on clay since the beginning of 2016 than Dominic Thiem. The Austrian has four wins against the Spaniard on this surface. However, no one has beaten Dominic Thiem more times on clay since the beginning of 2016 than Rafael Nadal who has 6 wins.
Rafa is on course for a remarkable 12th title at Roland Garros and 94th win in 96 matches in Paris which is simply mad.
How does Dominic Thiem do it on the biggest stage in clay court tennis?
To go from playing Djokovic to Nadal on clay is such a big change.
Nadal will happily sit behind the baseline and dictate play where as Novak will want to be a little bit higher up by the baseline.
For me personally I’m looking at Dominic to bring more drop shots to this final than last year as well as the backhand slice. Backhand slice is simple but effective it takes all pace off the ball but Rafa is the best at working his forehand without it so aiming for the backhand is key.
He was 6/6 on drop shot winners against Novak and had his card marked at the net as well with Novak winning 35/71 of net points where as Domi won 18/20 points at the net.
What Dominic has to avoid is this;
Image Credit – Roland Garros / ITV
Were going to see the battle of the top-spin whether it is forehand to backhand or vice-versa it’s going to happen and Dominic must avoid being in this position.
If he gives Rafa the opportunity to use his top-spin forehand pushing Thiem out-wide the defence of the Austrian will break down. The task then for Dominic will be to send it back with interest, very tough.
Avoiding this centre of the court ball is vital.
If he plays it you have given Rafa time and options. Depending on Thiem’s positional recovery and where he is he can either go cross court as he does in the image above or could pull it back behind the Austrian.
Thiem needs variety if he is going to produce the biggest upset of the year and potentially in clay court tennis this past decade.
Variety is a vague term in tennis but he has to use the drop shot and his net skills. Thiem said following his win v Novak that Rafa is the favourite and he needs to play for me like a player with no pressure.
I don’t know. I want both to win it and I hope Dominic does to be honest. It will have to be something monumental!