When you write a daily blog at a Slam and that blog happens to be the French Open, you realise you are always searching for new words to describe Nadal’s brilliance. I must sound like I am so far up his a** but the truth is how can you not be? He was shaky against Diego early on and you just thought Delpo would cause a few problems as he fed off the crowd, especially in the opening stages. I would say he did too, to an extent.
I actually think that you could argue that Del Potro was the better player for nearly a set and a half in this yesterday. Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but I don’t think it is that far-fetched. The point is Rafa was 6/4 3/0 up by then. Bizzare isn’t it? The truth is the great players produce that flash of brilliance when under pressure. For the first set yesterday Delpo came out as I expected. He was positive, aggressive and causing Rafa all sorts of problems. Rafa saved a total of 6 break points and then from pretty much nowhere broke Delpo when the Argentine was serving to stay in the set at *4/5. A game that had a couple of moments of Nadal magic. It broke Del Potro’s heart and though he went again at the start of the second, he found himself a break down immediately. I think he started to struggle physically later on but maybe I am wrong. Nobody really beats Del Potro up like this though so that’s another testament to Nadal’s relentlessness.
Thiem had previously done his part to reach Sunday’s showdown with Nadal having finally put an end to Marco Cecchinato’s run in Paris. Thiem was always edging the contest but got the final blows in late in the first two sets, 7/5 7/6(10). The second set breaker being absolutely massive. Thiem nearly blew the breaker and should have lost it in the end. Both players showed signs of nerves here. Who knows what would have happened had the Italian capitalised here? Having won the set though, Thiem relaxed and the Italian’s head understandably dropped in the third as the Austrian ran away with it 6/1.
It was a match too far for Cecchinato, he has had some brutal heats here. The 10/8 in the decider against Marius Copil in the first round must seem a long time ago now. Thiem’s class shone through and he has proved me wrong here. I said before I thought he had overplayed coming in. It has been the case before and I thought it was the same coming in here. He played three weeks on the trot coming in, Madrid, Rome and Nice, reaching the finals in Madrid and winning in Lyon the week before RG. The early loss to Fognini in Rome meant it wasn’t three long weeks admittedly. I thought Lyon was unnecessary but he has proved me wrong. There has never been any questioning what a top tennis player he is and he has proved his class this fortnight on the big stage.
Having taken care of Rafa in Madrid a few weeks ago he is obviously not without a shot here. This is however over five sets and conditions that suit the Spaniard. Nadal is as big as 1/4 (80% chance), so the market is basically saying Thiem has a squeak. ‘The Dominator’ has confirmed his status as second best in the men’s game on the surface here. You have to fancy Rafa obviously but one thing is for sure is that if Thiem wins he will have to play lights out tennis and maintain that for five sets. Then see if that is good enough. That is how it is with Rafa on the Chatrier.
Andy Del Potro