James Blake: Rafa is the French Open favorite, but watch out for ThiemMay 23, 2017
Debating best-of-three sets vs. best-of-fiveBy May 21, 2021
The Tennis Conversation: Tim HenmanBy May 21, 2021
The Pick: Lorenzo Musetti vs. Sebastian Korda, ATP Lyon second roundBy May 18, 2021
In Geneva, Roger Federer loses clay-court comeback to Pablo AndujarBy May 18, 2021
The Pick: Jannik Sinner vs. Aslan Karatsev, ATP Lyon first roundBy May 17, 2021
Officials deny that 2022 Australian Open could moveBy May 17, 2021
Week in Preview: Serena, Federer lead stars tuning up for French OpenBy May 17, 2021
Nadal finds the final answer for Djokovic in roller coaster Rome finalBy May 16, 2021
Rafael Nadal battles past Novak Djokovic to win Rome for 10th timeBy May 16, 2021
James Blake: Rafa is the French Open favorite, but watch out for Thiem
Nadal has gone 17-1 on clay this season and won three titles on t
Published May 23, 2017
Rafael Nadal will turn 31 next week, he hasn’t won a major in three years and he was beaten by Dominic Thiem in Rome this past Friday.
Despite all of that, Tennis Channel commentator and former world No. 4 James Blake believes that the Spaniard is the overwhelming favorite to win Roland Garros, which begins on Sunday.
And who can blame him? The nine-time French Open champion has had a resurgent 2017, going 36-6—including a 17-1 mark on clay—and taking home titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.
Also working in Rafa’s favor is the fact that Roger Federer has opted to skip the season’s second Slam, and Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have largely underperformed this year.
“I still have to put Rafa in as a pretty heavy favorite the way he's been playing, the way the other top players have been playing,” said Blake, who will cover the tournament on Tennis Channel from first ball to last. “How much success he's had there, I would think of him as a pretty big favorite.
“…I'm excited to see Rafa right now, playing about as well as he's played in the last five years, back where he's dominated so much at the French Open. I think it's great for the sport.”
Blake admits that he was among those who, about a year ago, doubted whether Nadal had enough left in the tank to win another major. But even before his dominant clay season, Nadal began to turn heads with encouraging—and sometimes brilliant—performances in Melbourne, Acapulco and Miami.
Thiem, who snapped Nadal’s 17-match winning streak this past week before falling to Djokovic in the Italian Open semifinals, reached the French Open semis for the first time in 2016. Blake loves the 23-year-old Austrian’s game and thinks it’s just a matter of time before he captures his first Slam.
“Thiem, on a given day, can beat anyone in the world, as he showed in Rome,” Blake said. “…Thiem, for many years to come, will be a contender there. I think he's someone that will get a Slam at some point in his career. If I had to bet on one he would get, it would be Roland Garros. But it might just be a waiting game for the rest of the tour until Rafa is done collecting all those French Open titles.”
Nadal is expected to be the fourth seed behind top-ranked Murray, 2016 champion Djokovic and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka. Thiem, ranked seventh behind Federer and Milos Raonic, is 29-12 on the year. He won the Rio Open—his eighth career title—on clay back in February.
· Get Tennis Channel Plus for Roland Garros to watch 200 live matches from up to five courts, starting with the Qualifying Rounds.
· Watch the Best of Roland Garros 2016 on-demand at any time
· Get Tennis Channel Plus for all of Roland Garros, as well as 650+ live events all year long
· Tennis Channel Plus is available on any streaming device, on mobile, always on the GO (desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire)
· Subscribe today at BuyTCPlus.com