Most people expected Rafael Nadal to be facing Novak Djokovic in the final of 2019 French Open. But a rain-marred semi-final saw Austria's Dominic Thiem set up a repeat of last year's final against the 11-time winner at Roland Garros.
The 2019 French Open final begins at 3 pm local time, 9 pm SGT.
In 2018, Nadal showed his superiority in the final by trouncing Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. But the 25-year old has a different coach this time around in Nicolas Massu, 2004 Olympic men's singles gold medallist from Chile. On top of that, he has already registered a win over the Spanish legend in this clay-court season â at the Barcelona Open.
However, Nadal seems to push his game many levels higher when he gets on the Philippe Chatrier court at Roland Garros. Having had a difficult start to the season which saw him losing in four successive semi-finals, the Spaniard found form by winning the Italian Open just before the French Open, that too by defeating Djokovic in the final.
What would also worry Thiem, apart from Nadal's greatness, is the fact that he has been involved in on-court action for three successive days coming into the final. Additionally, while Nadal coasted to an easy win in straight sets over Federer in semis, he had to fight tooth and nail against Djokovic in a five-setter.
Overall, unsurprisingly, Nadal holds the edge in head-to-head figures. These two have played each other 12 times with the 17-time Grand Slam winner ahead by a 8-4 margin. Plus, the 33-year old Spanish giant has looked peerless in this tournament, having lost just one set till now. Compared to that, the Austrian had to play four-set matches in the first three rounds and then the five-setter in semis.
It would be impossible not to fancy Nadal in this match. A man who has lost just two matches in his French Open history, as opposed to 92 victories, and never a final, would be very hard to beat. But having beaten him in front of a Spanish crowd, Thiem would hope to pull off a mini-upset.