Dominic Thiem is the only Major champion born in the 90s, failing in the first three attempts against the most formidable rivals before succeeding at the last year’s US Open. Thiem’s first Major final came at Roland Garros 2018 following a notable victory over Novak Djokovic. The ten-time winner Rafael Nadal stood between the Austrian and the title and beat him 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to secure another Parisian title and leave Dominic with the runner-up prize. 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, unable to match Nadal’s pace and lift his first Major in the first attempt.
Recalling the encounter, the Austrian admitted that Rafa was too strong for him on that day and calling it the toughest challenge of his career. Rafa had won 86 out of 88 matches played in Paris since 2005 at that point and scored the 111th triumph in the best-of-five encounters on clay from 113 challenges! It was the 14th season with at least one Major title for Rafa, and he became the third-oldest champion in Paris in the Open era behind Andres Gimeno and Ken Rosewall, who was there to present him the trophy.
Dominic Thiem shared thoughts about his first Major final at Roland Garros 2018.
The Spaniard served at 68% and was on a high level behind the initial shot, dominating on the first serve and keeping the second safe enough to face just three break points in the entire clash and lose serve once. The Spaniard had more winners than unforced errors, controlled the pace and forced Thiem to go for risky shots and lines, which drew over 40 unforced errors. Dominic served below 60% and had to play against 17 break chances, placing even more significant pressure on his shoulders in the most important match of his career up to that point. Nadal converted five of those, and it was more than enough to seal the deal in straight sets, having the upper hand from the baseline and finding an open space to land his reliable and tamed groundstrokes that left Thiem powerless. The same rivals would meet in the final in Paris a year later, too, with Nadal winning another title to extend his dominance.
“I had no chance of beating Rafael Nadal in my first Roland Garros final; we all know what he is capable of doing at that event. That match is probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had in my sports career,” Dominic Thiem said.