French Open 2018 Men's Final: Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem Predictions

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2018

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 8: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during the semi-final on Day 13 of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros stadium on June 8, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal will aim for an 11th French Open title when he meets Dominic Thiem in the 2018 men's final at Roland-Garros on Sunday.

While Nadal is used to the pressure, Thiem will be playing in his first Grand Slam showpiece. He's also just the second Austrian to contest a final at this level.

Here are some predictions for the climactic men's event:

       

The Match Will go to Four Sets

It's matchup of players who are at home on clay. Nadal is often known as the king of the surface, such has been his clay-court dominance down the years.

Yet Thiem's own record on the surface also commands respect:

Thiem is one of the few players on the ATP circuit able to come close to Nadal's recent winning run, with BBC Sport's Russell Fuller detailing the form:

Both players also held their nerve early on during the semi-final stage. Thiem was pushed to winning a seventh game in the opening set by Marco Cecchinato before having to outlast the Italian in a tiebreak in the second.

The Austrian was more emphatic in the third set, powering his way to a 6-1 win behind a strong serve.

Nadal has had things mostly his own way en route to yet another final in Paris. In fact, the 32-year-old has lost just one set at this year's tournament, against Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-final.

He was near-flawless against Juan Martin del Potro in the last four.

Thiem knows how to take charge on clay.
Thiem knows how to take charge on clay.Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Expect Thiem to be the second player to take a set against Nadal. There will be a tiebreak in at least one other set as in-form Thiem gives Nadal his toughest game at this year's Open.

       

Thiem Will Struggle to Break Nadal's Serve

Converting break points has become close to impossible against Nadal on the red clay of Paris. The Spaniard held serve brilliantly against Del Potro in the last four, according to Tennis Magazine's Steve Tignor:

Nadal's defense is superb, with his range of backhand shots ideal for taking the edge off an opponents' return game. Thiem has an impressive range of shots, including a one-handed backhand he leans on heavily, but he lacks the power and ball-striking efficiency to earn the crucial breaks.

By contrast, Thiem will do well to protect his own serve against a seasoned winner who has become expert at earning breaks.

Writing for ESPN.com, Simon Cambers detailed Nadal's approach to his return game: "Nadal summons the strength to return hard and high, pushing his opponents back. By the time they connect with their second shot, Nadal has moved forward onto the baseline ready to attack."

Expect Nadal to disrupt the serve of the budding "Prince of Clay" while holding firm with his own.

     

Nadal Will Win an 11th French Open Title

Thiem's growing expertise on clay, as well as his recent winning form, should warn Nadal this final will be far from easy. However, no player handles the pressure in Paris as well as Nadal, who holds the head-to-head edge over his opponent having won six of nine games against Thiem.

Nadal will be holding the trophy once more.
Nadal will be holding the trophy once more.Christophe Ena/Associated Press

The dramatic comeback from a set and break down against Schwartzman in the last eight proved Nadal's competitive desire is as strong as ever. He was aided by a rain delay against Schwartzman, but he regained his composure to rally brilliantly and make the most of his reprieve.

Nadal also survived multiple set points in the opener against Del Potro. Whenever he's been pushed to the brink at Roland Garros this year, Nadal has stood firm and overcome the challenge.

Expect him to do the same against the burgeoning talent of Thiem.

Prediction: Nadal wins 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3

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