PARIS—This is the Roland Garros men’s final many of us have been waiting to see. On one side we have the 32-year-old Nadal, the 10-time champion and greatest ever on clay. On the other we have the 24-year-old Thiem, the player who has been pegged for years as a possible successor to Rafa at Roland Garros—not that anyone thinks that he’s going to win 10 of them, but two or three would seem to be within reach. While Nadal’s presence in the final will be nothing new, it will be the first time we’ve seen him play one against a member of the ATP’s younger generation.
More important, Rafa will be facing a player who has beaten him on clay three times—once in 2016 in Buenos Aires, once in 2017 in Rome, and once this spring in Madrid. That last match was also the last time they’ve played. Of course, Nadal has beaten Thiem six times on dirt (they’ve never played on any other surface), and he has won both of their previous meetings at the French Open in straight sets.
TenniStory: The Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain