Dominic Thiem’s tough path to French Open glory

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Dominic Thiem faces a tough draw at the 2020 French Open, as he looks to win a second consecutive Grand Slam title. The Austrian lifted his first Major title at the US Open just two weeks ago.

Thiem is largely seen as the third favorite in Paris, after Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. In the 15 editions of Roland Garros since 2005, Nadal has won 12 titles, while Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Stan Wawrinka have each won one. Thiem made the 2018 and 2019 finals–losing to Nadal on both occasions.

Here is a look at Thiem’s likely route to French Open glory:

Dominic Thiem’s Draw:

Thiem begins his campaign against world #39 Marin Cilic–a former US Open champion, and Wimbledon and Australian Open finalist. The Croatian–also a two-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist–has, though, been short of his best for over a year. Thiem leads the head-to-head 3-0, including a four-set third round win at the US Open earlier this month. The Austrian should be too strong, but Cilic remains a dangerous opening hurdle.

The 27-year-old would then face either Reilly Opelka or Jack Sock in the second round. Thiem is 3-1 against Sock and 1-0 against Opelka. He would be strong favorite against either American on clay, but both possess huge weapons.

Thiem’s most likely third round opponent would be emerging clay court force Casper Ruud. The Norweigan made impressive runs to the semifinals of the tournaments in Rome and Hamburg in the last two weeks. On current form, Ruud could give Thiem a serious test. Tommy Paul, who pushed Thiem to four sets at the 2019 French Open, is another contender to face the Austrian at this stage.

The two seeded players Thiem could meet in the fourth round are Felix Auger-Aliassime and Stan Wawrinka. At the US Open, Thiem beat Auger-Aliassime in the pair’s only meeting. He has a 1-3 record against 2015 French Open champion Wawrinka, although the pair have not met since 2017. Both could be a handful, but the Austrian should have too much. The in-form Dominik Koepfer–and Wawrinka’s first round opponent Andy Murray–could also face Thiem in the last 16.

The World #3 would then most likely meet Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. Thiem is 6-2 (3-1 on clay) against the Argentine, who made the last eight at Roland Garros in 2018. Despite this, Schwartzman is capable of troubling the very best on this surface–underlined by his win against Nadal during his recent run to the Rome final. Eighth-seed Gael Monfils could also come through his section, but he was out of sorts in straight-set defeats in Rome and Hamburg in the past fortnight. Thiem’s 6-0 record against the Frenchman suggests he would be untroubled by this potential matchup. The other seeds, Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz, are unlikely to get this far, while Alexander Bublik and Corentin Moutet are dangerous unseeded players in the section.

In the semifinals, the Austrian would most probably face 12-time Roland Garros champion Nadal. Thiem holds a respectable 5-9 record against the Spaniard, who has won all three meetings at the French Open. The cooler conditions, and change to a Wilson ball, are not expected to suit Nadal. While the World #2 would still be the favorite, Thiem could at least push Nadal hard if he recaptured the level he showed at the hard court majors this year. Zverev, Goffin, and Fognini are other potential semifinalists–but it is very difficult to see any of them stopping Nadal.

Thiem would then likely meet world #1 Novak Djokovic in the final. The Serbian was a gear below his very best in capturing the Rome title – and if he can find that level – he will surely reach the final in Paris. Thiem trails the head-to-head against Djokovic 4-7, but has won two of the three encounters at the French Open – including an epic five-set 2019 semi-final. Djokovic also prevailed over the distance when the pair met in this year’s Australian Open final. While a championship match against Djokovic would virtually be a 50/50 call, Thiem would be a firm favourite against anyone else. Hamburg finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev are the other main contenders to come through the top half. Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini are not far behind, while Daniil Medvedev is a genuine outsider – having never won a match at Roland Garros.

Prediction: Nadal to beat Thiem in the semifinals and Djokovic in the final.

Possible Draw Summary:

First round: Cilic

Second round: Opelka/Sock

Third round: Ruud/Paul

Fourth round: Auger-Aliassime/Wawrinka/Koepfer/Murray

Quarter-final: Schwartzman/Monfils/Coric/Fritz

Semi-final: Nadal/Zverev/Goffin/Fognini

Final: Djokovic/Tsitsipas/Rublev/Berrettini/Shapovalov/Medvedev

Main Photo from Getty.