Are the stars aligning for Dominic Thiem at the French Open?

Are the stars aligning for Dominic Thiem at the French Open?
Thiem is chasing history (Picture: Corbis via Getty)

Dominic Thiem claimed a small piece of history on Friday by becoming just the second Austrian to book a spot in a Grand Slam final, but theres a genuine possibility that he may go one further at Roland Garros.

The Austrian has earned the tag the Prince of Clay in recent times and he will take on the king himself Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

Amid the world No. 1s dominance on his favoured surface over the past two years, only Thiem has found chinks in his armour – picking up two wins over the Spaniard when no other player has even managed one.

Having seen his French Open runs halted at the semi-final stage in 2016 and 2017, losing to eventual winners Novak Djokovic and Nadal, Thiem has been handed a bit of a reprieve in what looked like a very tricky draw on paper.

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In just the second round, he was drawn against Stefanos Tsitsipas – the young Greek who played a starring role in the clay-court season, losing to Nadal in the final of Barcelona. Thiem won in four.

Are the stars aligning for Dominic Thiem at the French Open?
Thiem will face Nadal in the final (Picture: AFP/Getty)

In the fourth round, he faced Kei Nishikori – another player to lose to Nadal in a final on clay this year. Again, he won in four.

But, when facing Alexander Zverev – another beaten Nadal finalist in Rome – Thiem was handed the first timely boost of his French Open campaign.

Zverev injured his hamstring after three games in that contest and although he stayed on court until the end, if truth be told it was a virtual walkover.

Hours later, Thiem was handed his second major advantage in the run up to the final.

World No. 72 Marco Cecchinato took out 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic in a physically and mentally exhausting encounter.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic waves to spectators as he leaves the court after his defeat by Italy's Marco Cecchinato during their men's singles quarter-final match on day ten of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Christophe ARCHAMBAULTCHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images
Thiem avoided Novak Djokovic (Picture; AFP/Getty)

Thiem avoided a player who knows exactly how to get it done on the biggest stage and once more the efforts of previous rounds finally took their toll on the Italian to allow the Austrian to win in straight sets.

So why is that significant?

Well, Thiem is capable of a blistering performance on clay on any given day but often fails to back it up.

His victory against Nadal in Rome last year was immediately followed by a 6-1 6-0 hammering courtesy of Djokovic.

Though he beat Kevin Anderson in the aftermath of downing Nadal in Madrid this year, he was not sharp for the final against Zverev.

Are the stars aligning for Dominic Thiem at the French Open?
Have things turned in Thiems favour? (Picture: Getty)

Most tellingly of all, perhaps, was his battle with Nadal at Roland Garros last year.

Thiem blitzed Djokovic in straight sets to book an encounter with the Spaniard in the semi-finals but was routinely thumped 6-3 6-4 6-0 as he ran out of steam.

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Of course, the same may well happen again on Sunday. Nadal is, after all, the finest clay-court player of all time. He has never lost in his previous 10 finals on Philippe-Chatrier.

But Thiem will arrive at this final fresh both from a mental and physical perspective – and that cannot be underestimated.

The stars have aligned to give him the best possible shot of beating Nadal in the final. From here on in, its all up to him.

More: Tennis

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