Dominic Thiem became the first player born in the 90s to win a Grand Slam title after beating Alexander Zverev in the final of the US Open 2020. The Austrian, who has always been considered a clay specialist having hit two consecutive finals at Roland Garros, he had come very close to winning a Major already at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Thanks to his triumphal ride in New York, the world number 3 is considered one of the favorites for the title also in Paris, just behind the king of the earth Rafael Nadal and the World number 1 Novak Djokovic. This year the French Open will be held between September and October instead of May-June, so you have to expect different conditions from a climatic point of view and beyond.
In a recent interview, Nicolas Massu's protege said he was more frightened by the change of balls (in fact, he will go from the traditional Babolat to the Wilson).
Thiem on the 2020 French Open
"I can remember, in the 2016 semifinals against Novak Djokovic it was 11 degrees," Dominic Thiem said.
"It won't get much colder." Dominic Thiem claims that this subtle but significant change will be a problem not only for himself, but also for a certain Spaniard. "That will be the bigger difference," asserted Thiem.
"The Babolat were actually my favorite balls, they were nice and fast, perfect for my game, perfect for Rafael Nadal's game too. The new balls will be slower, more open. That will certainly change the results a bit," the Austrian added.
Rafael Nadal, defending champion and winner of 12 of the last 15 editions of the tournament, has only played three matches in the last seven months and his last outing was a surprising straight-sets loss. Novak Djokovic is playing at his first Grand Slam since being disqualified from the US Open for hitting a lineswoman with a ball – described as the “toughest and darkest” moment of his career by his former coach Boris Becker.
And Dominic Thiem hasn’t played a competitive match on clay after becoming a Grand Slam champion for the first time at the US Open. A ‘free and relaxed’ Thiem could be a dangerous proposition for either Nadal or Djokovic, one of whom will be scheduled to meet the Austrian in the semi-finals when the draw is made on Thursday.
And perhaps time away from the court will benefit him physically and help him get over the ankle injury he was battling in the latter stages of the US Open.