|French Open 2014|
|Rafael Nadal  (ESP)||vs||Dominic Thiem (AUT)|
ScheduleWednesday, 28 May 2014 at 12:00 GMT / 13:00 UK / 17:30 IST
VenueCourt Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros
It took Rafael Nadal three short sets and light work to dismiss veteran Robby Ginepri in his first round match at the 2014 French Open. Next up in the queue is rising Austrian 20 year old Dominic Thiem, who dispatched Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in his first round encounter, also in three: 6-4, 7-6, 6-2.
Here we see the classic line-up of the master and the apprentice. There's no doubting Nadal's credentials at Roland Garros. It's not up for question, and he is over the period of nine years, unrivalled. However, this will be a good test of Thiem's potential, and it will be the first time he's had the blowtorch applied to him in a match of this magnitude.
Thiem has already had an interesting year, and has more than halved his ranking inside the space of six months. Hovering out at the lower 100's at the end of 2013 (#139), he's now moved into #57, after some strong performances against players ranked inside the top 50.
He's been good enough to see off players such as Joao Sousa, Jarkko Nieminen, Gilles Simon, Lukas Rosol, Radak Stepanek, Marcel Granollers and Dimitri Tursunov. Thiem's biggest scalp to date was the 3rd ranked player in the world: Stan Wawrinka in the round of 32 at the 1000 Masters event at Madrid. He did so after coming through qualifying.
Dominic was a top junior before turning pro (ranked #2), having won the prestigious Orange Bowl in 2011, and finishing runner-up in the boys final of the French Open to American Bjorn Fratangelo that same year.
His greatest weapons are a top quality one-handed backhand in the mould of Wawrinka, and the ability to hit stinging passing shots down the tram line. His serve is pretty good too. Both he and Nadal are the same height (at 6' 1"), but it will be all about Nadal's lefty serve and top-spin versus Thiem's placement and flat shot-making.
In the head-to-head match ups, Nadal and Thiem have never faced each other previously, so from that perspective, this has all the makings of an interesting match. Nadal should have too much experience for Thiem overall, but you never know, the apprentice might just steal a set away from the Champ. Theim certainly has nothing to lose, and this is when an unknown opponent (as he will be to Nadal) is at their most dangerous. It could also announce the arrival of a top new talent in the men's game.
After the Wawrinka capitulation on Monday, nothing should come as a surprise. However I'll call it in favour of Nadal, in four sets.