Nadal needs 'his best' against Thiem in French Open final

Rafael Nadal

2018 French Open men’s final
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: Sunday, 10 June Time: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and app.

Rafael Nadal says he will have to “play his best” to beat Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s French Open final and secure an 11th Roland Garros title.

Nadal, 32, has won a record 10 titles in Paris and has lost only twice at the tournament since his debut in 2005.

The Spaniard has been beaten just twice on clay in the past two seasons and both defeats have come against Thiem.

“I have a very difficult match against a player that is playing great,” 16-time Grand Slam winner Nadal said.

“I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances.

“Sunday is the day to give my best, is the day to increase even a little bit more the level.”

Thiem, who will be competing in his first Grand Slam final, beat Nadal at last year’s Italian Open and won the pair’s most recent meeting at the Madrid Open last month. He also beat the Spaniard in Buenos Aires in 2016.

All of the Austrian’s victories over Nadal have come in three-set matches, while the world number one has beaten Thiem twice in best-of-five-set matches at Roland Garros, including a straight-set victory in the semi-finals of last year’s tournament.

However, the world number eight says he “has a plan” to beat Nadal.

“If I want to beat him, I have to play that way like I did in Rome and in Madrid,” Thiem said.

“I know how to play against him. I have a plan.

“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.”

‘We know Thiem can beat Nadal’

Dominic Thiem

Nadal’s remarkable record at the French Open has led seven-time Grand Slam singles champion John McEnroe to claim beating the Spaniard in Paris is the toughest task in sport.

His only defeats in the tournament came in the 2009 fourth round against Robin Soderling and in the 2015 quarter-finals against Novak Djokovic.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash told BBC Radio 5 live that Nadal’s experience makes victory “tough for Thiem”.

“We know Thiem can beat him,” Cash said.

“I’d love to build this up to say Thiem has a real chance and that it will be nip and tuck.

“When you look at it on paper, you say if it wasn’t the final of the French Open and wasn’t on that centre court, then you’d say he has a real chance.

“But it is the experience that Nadal has, it makes it tough for a guy like Thiem.”

‘It’s almost impossible to beat Rafa’

Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal

Nadal has dropped just one set in this year’s tournament, in the quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman when he trailed by a set and a break in a rain-affected match.

He beat fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4 6-1 6-2 in the semi-finals and afterwards the Argentine said it is “almost impossible” to beat Nadal on clay.

“He’s too strong,” Del Potro said.

“He’s improving his backhand a lot. That’s why he’s the number one and beating all the guys.

“He looks fresh. He is healthy. And the strength that he has and the mentality, everything is perfect, works perfect for him playing on clay.

“Let’s see what Dominic can do. I mean, Dominic beat Rafa in Madrid. Maybe on Sunday he can repeat.”

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