Dominic Thiem reached the junior Roland Garros final in 2011, dreaming about winning his favorite Major in the future. The Austrian made a senior debut in 2014 and lost to the clay king Rafael Nadal in straight sets. Two years later, Thiem was already among the finest clay-courters on the Tour, reaching the semi-final in Paris and falling to Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
Returning to France as the top-10 star in 2017, Thiem toppled Djokovic in the quarter-final before losing to Nadal in straight sets after running out of gas in set number three. A year later, Dominic advanced to his first Major final at Roland Garros, facing the ultimate rival on the other side of the net.
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, with Nadal scoring a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 42 minutes to defend the title won a year ago.
Dominic Thiem wants to end Rafael Nadal's reign in Paris this year.
Rafa lost serve once and converted five out of 17 break opportunities to leave Dominic behind and deny the Austrian's first Major trophy. The same rivals met in the title match 12 months later, with Thiem finally taking a set away from Rafa in Paris.
Still, that wasn't enough to keep him safe, losing ground after the second set and falling 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 after three hours. Nadal started all over from the third set and ousted the younger opponent to celebrate the 12th Parisian crown.
Last October, the Spaniard defeated all seven rivals in straight sets to extend his reign. The Austrian lost an epic quarter-final clash to Diego Schwartzman in five hours, leaving Paris before the semis for the first time in five years.
"My biggest goal is to win Roland Garros. I like that tournament the most, and the conditions suit my game. I played the junior final in 2011, and I have wanted to win it ever since. Rafael Nadal is in the league of his own at Roland Garros; I have never managed to beat him there.
I'm confident against him at other tournaments, but it becomes extra tough on Court Philippe-Chatrier; it's one of our sport's toughest challenges. He lost twice in 16 years in Paris; that's insane. Rafa should be the favorite in Paris for another year or two, but I will try to beat his this season," Dominic Thiem said.