When: Sunday, 9 a.m. Eastern time
Where: Roland Garros, Paris
Just as Roger Federer said earlier this week that to achieve anything on clay, “You will go through Rafa,” so too has Thiem become an inevitability at the French Open in recent years. Before he broke through and finally made it to the championship last year, the 25-year-old Austrian made it to the semifinals in both 2016 (where he lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets) and 2017 (where he lost to Nadal in straight sets). The Spaniard beat Thiem in straight sets again in last year’s final to win his 11th title at Roland Garros.
A trophy Sunday would give Nadal his 18th major championship, just two away from Roger Federer’s 20. Thiem would earn his first.
This time around, Thiem arrives at the final having beaten Djokovic in a dramatic, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 semifinal that was interrupted by rain multiple times and lasted more than four hours over a two-day span. He broke Djokovic’s 26-match Grand Slam winning streak and his reward was a bout with Nadal on less than a full day’s rest.
Nadal, on the other hand, has been resting up since Friday, when he defeated Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in powerful wind gusts that caused the clay on court to swirl. The 33-year-old Spaniard will play for a record-extending 12th title — and he’s never lost in a final at Roland Garros.
He’ll have to beat a familiar foe to get there. Nadal owns an 8-4 overall record against Thiem, including a 4-0 record at majors. The pair last played in a Grand Slam at the 2018 U.S. Open in the quarterfinals, where Thiem took Nadal to five sets for the first time. Thiem won their most recent meeting, which was in Barcelona on clay this year, in straight sets.