Dominic Thiem: 'Facing Rafael Nadal in 2018 Roland Garros final was the toughest..'

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Dominic Thiem: 'Facing Rafael Nadal in 2018 Roland Garros final was the toughest..'

World no. 3 Dominic Thiem is preparing for the season restart in New York, entering Cincinnati and the US Open. The Austrian competed in numerous exho matches in the last couple of months, winning the majority of those and shaping up his form ahead of the first official encounters this month.

Thiem should be among the favorites in New York, with no Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the draw, seeking the first Major crown after previously losing all three finals. Speaking about Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Thiem mentioned his first Major final at Roland Garros 2018, facing the clay king Rafael Nadal in what was his biggest challenge in a career.

The young Austrian had battled past Novak Djokovic in the semis, setting the ultimate clash with the ten-time champion in Paris. It proved to be a mission impossible for Dominic, with Nadal scoring a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 triumph in two hours and 43 minutes to defend the title and remain world no.

1. It was the 11th Roland Garros crown for Rafa in 14 appearances, and his 17th Major crown overall, trailing three behind Roger Federer. Thiem was the only player who defeated Rafa on clay in 2017 and 2018 but he failed to deliver another upset on the most significant scene, unable to match Nadal's pace and win maiden Major title.

Rafa had won 86 out of 88 matches played in Paris since 2005, scoring the 111th triumph in the best-of-five encounters on clay from 113 tests! It was the 14th season with at least one Major title for Rafa, becoming the third-oldest champion in Paris in the Open era behind Andres Gimeno and Ken Rosewall, who was there to present him the trophy.

Also, Rafa became the only player in the Open era with 11 titles at three different tournaments after conquering Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros this spring to extend his clay-court dominance that had been lasting for 13 years.

In his first Major final, Dominic Thiem lost to Rafael Nadal in Paris 2018.

The Spaniard served at 68% and was rock-solid in his games, dominating on the first serve and keeping the second safe enough to face just three break points in the entire clash, getting broken once.

The Spaniard had more winners than unforced errors, controlling the pace and forcing Thiem to go for risky shots and lines, which drew more than 40 unforced errors. Dominic served below 60% and had to play against 17 break chances, putting even more significant pressure on his shoulders in the most important match of his career.

Nadal converted five of those, more than enough to seal the deal in straight sets, having the upper hand from the baseline and finding an open space to land his reliable and tamed groundstrokes that left Thiem with no answer.

The same rivals would meet in the final in Paris a year later, too, with Nadal winning another title to extend his dominance. "Well, I must be clear, in my first final at Roland Garros, against Rafael Nadal, I had no chance of beating him, we all know what he can do in that tournament. That match is probably the biggest challenge I've ever had in my sports career," Dominic Thiem said.