Dominic Thiem graduated US Open champion last week, becoming the first player to win a Grand Slam outside the Big 3 since Stan Wawrinka's triumph in New York in 2016. The Austrian will take a break until Roland Garros, where he has already played two consecutive finals always surrendering to Rafael Nadal.
Despite having been away from the circuit for six months, the Majorcan will also be the big favorite in this edition of the Parisian tournament, which will have different climatic and atmospheric conditions than usual due to the location at the end of September.
Interviewed by the Italian press before his debut at the Foro Italico in Rome, Fabio Fognini revealed that Nadal will still be the man to beat at the French Open. Although Thiem has made significant progress, Rafa still has room to match the Grand Slam record of eternal rival Roger Federer.
Fognini on the Big 3
The Austrian says he will be fit and ready to go again at Roland Garros later this month, but Fabio Fognini says the Spaniard is still the man to beat. “I think it’s a good step forward for Dominic Thiem,” Fognini told the Italian press.
“[In the US Open final] he was one step really close to lose the match, because I think he was the favourite of the match, so mentally also it’s not so easy like playing maybe Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, that you have nothing to lose because they are better than you.
So now it’s gonna be interesting, because these kind of players we’ll say in the future they’re gonna win big, big tournament, they’re going to make big result. But if Rafa is fit, it’s really hard to beat him on Roland Garros”.
Despite Dominic Thiem breaking his Grand Slam duck, Fognini hasn’t seen enough to displace Nadal as his favourite for the French Open. “Well, with Rafa, we never know. I think he’s one of the best champion that we have in our sport, so say something about Rafa that he can’t? I do not.
He’s able to do everything. So I think he’s the favourite on clay. When he’s fit, results are talking for him." Nadal has been ranked in the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for 782 consecutive weeks since 25 April 2005, second only to Jimmy Connors (789). Nadal has won a tour-level title for an Open Era record 17 straight seasons (2004-20).