Rafael Nadal declares he can take his game to another level for French Open final battle with Dominic Thiem

  • Nadal fires ominous warning to Thiem ahead of Roland Garros final
  • The 10-time champion says he can still improve ahead of the final
  • Watch and bet on French Open tennis live from Roland Garros at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Rafael Nadal (Photo by CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has issued a warning shot to Dominic Thiem ahead of their French Open final showdown on Sunday, declaring he can still take his game to another level.

Watch and bet on French Open tennis live from Roland Garros at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify).

When preparing to face Nadal on clay, the numbers alone are intimidating - never mind actually going out there on the day and trying to take him down in the flesh. The Spanish legend has a 85-2 record at Roland Garros, winning 10 titles since first lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires as a fresh-faced 19-year-old in 2005, while he is a staggering 110-2 in best-of-five matches on clay throughout his career. Only Robin Soderling playing the match of his life in 2009 and a peak Novak Djokovic in 2015 have managed to beat Nadal under the aforementioned circumstances. That’s the exclusive club Thiem will be attempting to join on Sunday.

But Nadal says he can still improve. Which is a fairly daunting statement if you’re Dominic Thiem.

"I have a very difficult match against a player that is playing great. I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances," Nadal said after his straight sets win over Juan Martin del Potro. "[The] good thing is [that] I played a lot of good matches this clay-court season. So Sunday is the day to give my best, is the day to increase my level even a little bit more."

Indeed, even at 32 years of age and having accomplished pretty much everything in the sport, Nadal still isn’t content. The hunger and drive is as high as it’s ever been as Nadal tries to become the first man in history to win 11 Grand Slam titles at the same tournament, while he is also aiming to be the first player in the Open Era to win 11 titles at three tournament tour-level events after also winning 11th titles in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona earlier in 2018.

Dominic Thiem (Photo by ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
It’s a mammoth task in front of Thiem, but the Austrian knows he has it within him to conquer the King of Clay. He’s the only man to have beaten Nadal on clay in each of the last two seasons, while he’s one of just three men to have defeated the Spaniard on clay three times overall (the others being Novak Djokovic and Gaston Gaudio). Thiem toppled Nadal in straight sets in Rome last year and Madrid just over a month ago, but emulating that in the best-of-five format at Roland Garros requires an even greater performance.

“I know how to play against him. I have a plan,” Thiem said of facing the 10-time French Open champion. “If I want to beat him, I have to play that way like I did in Rome and in Madrid. But I'm also aware that here it's tougher. He likes the conditions more here than in Madrid, for sure. Best of five is also different story.”

Of course, it goes without saying that Thiem is also trying to earn his place in history. The 24-year-old - who was just 11 years old when Nadal won his first French Open - is striving to become just the second Austrian player in history (man or woman) to win a Grand Slam title, with Thomas Muster standing alone in that regard with his 1995 French Open triumph. Thiem is also looking to join Marin Cilic as the only man to have won a Grand Slam title outside of the ‘Big Five’ of Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka since 2009, while he can also become just the ninth man in the Open Era to defeat the top two seeds at a Grand Slam after he ended Alexander Zverev’s campaign in the quarter-finals.

“Of course there is pressure, especially in Grand Slam finals, because I went a very long way now and I don't want to lose the finals,” Thiem said. “But on the other hand... I'm facing Rafa, I'm not the one who has the pressure.”


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Rafael Nadal declares he can take his game to another level for French Open final battle with Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal has issued a warning shot to Dominic Thiem ahead of their French Open final showdown on Sunday, declaring he can still take his game to another level.

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