Men’s Semifinal:  Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs.  Dominic Thiem (AUT)
A year and a half ago, many Nadal fans could not have envisioned this impressive start to the 2017 season that Nadal is having. He has lost to his old rival, Roger Federer, three straight times; however, aside from those losses, he has looked like “vintage Nadal”. While we know that’s impossible given the toll the years have taken, we are pleased to see him performing so well.
Today, he faced one of his biggest obstacles to the final, Thiem, a player who defeated him a little over two weeks ago in Rome, on clay and in straight sets. Could he duplicate that feat at Roland Garros and deny Nadal the chance to get la decima at Roland Garros? The difference between beating Nadal in best of three set matches versus best of five set matches is huge. It is not just physically more demanding, it requires extreme mental fortitude to withstand the pain of battle that Nadal puts his opponents through once he steps on the clay in France. Thiem found that out today and although he started off competing well and believing in his game, he folded after he dropped the first two sets and Nadal won 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
The prospect of having to grind through three more sets to get the potential victory seemed too daunting and rather than even attempt it, he gave up. His effort in the first two sets went unrewarded because Nadal avoided falling too far behind and Thiem could never relax. Perhaps the effort required to beat Novak Djokovic in the previous round had emptied his mental reserves; however, he did not come out with the confidence he should have in his attempt to derail the “king of clay” from his goal of getting to his tenth Roland Garros final.
Nadal’s quest for his third decima this season is still very much alive; however, he will have to get by Stan Wawrinka, an opponent he knows very well.
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