French Open 2017: Men’s Semifinal Preview: Nadal vs. Thiem

published: Jun, 08, 2017

by: Ben Stevens

Halep v Ostapenko – not quite the women’s final we had in mind prior to the tournament, but that’s why they play the games.

Two very different players, coming through equally topsy-turvy semifinals, the stage is set for a storybook ending. Either we get Halep, having fallen once before, finally getting over the hump and launching herself to the number one ranking, or Ostapenko, at barely 20 years old, going from title-less on the WTA tour to a major champion and legitimate star of the game. Considering what’s already transpired this year in the women’s game, how they keep pulling these storylines out of nowhere is incredible – and it’s only June!

Of course, with the women’s final set, our attention now shifts to see who can make it through on the men’s side. Here’s your semifinal previews for day 13 at Roland Garros.

*****

Andy Murray (GBR) [1] vs Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [3]

Semifinal opponents here last year, Wawrinka will be looking to avenge his four-set loss to Murray and continue his yearly tradition of catching fire at exactly the right time to win a major. That said, he trails Murray in the head-to-head 9-7, and the Scot has looked more like his world no. 1 self of late. Murray played one of his best ever matches to best Wawrinka last year in Paris, as he was able to not just out-serve the Swiss but even more impressively, consistently kept the ball away from his backhand, instead forcing him into protracted forehand rallies where the added bounce from Stan’s forehand allowed him to return balls with interest. Of course, at his best, Wawrinka can render a gameplan useless – as he did to Novak Djokovic in the 2015 final – and if he gets more change of direction off his forehand he should be able to open up plenty more rally-winning opportunities than he did in 2016. Any way you cut it, it’s a tricky affair to predict (and we haven’t even touched on the mental aspect that can dramatically affect both players), but it’s bound to be a corker.

*****

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [4] vs Dominic Thiem (AUT) [6]

An unstoppable force against an immovable object, no this is not two Parisians fighting over the last cigarette, but Nadal and the man who by most accounts, is the best equipped to beat him. After all, we don’t have to look far for the last time Thiem upended Rafa, having prevailed 6-4, 6-4 in the Rome semifinals a little over two weeks ago – but this is a whole ‘nother bag of bones. Compared to Madrid, Nadal was unable to get the same height on his forehand and depth on his backhand in Rome, allowing Thiem to attack more consistently, but Paris has seen Rafa once again at full flight, and that means it will be the Spaniard pulling most of the strings. That doesn’t mean Thiem is without a chance, but he will have to be almost metronomic in the regularity with which he finds the lines, otherwise Nadal will simply absorb the pressure and nullify attacking opportunities by angling balls away from him, or dipping them at his feet on net approaches. And sure, that makes Nadal the favourite, but the exciting thing about this match is Thiem is one of a few who, needing to play 2-3 hours of redline tennis, can actually pull it off. Either way, it should be a blast.

Ben Stevens

Contributor to TennisConnected. Long time player, coach and fan. Still waiting on Mark Philippoussis to break through at a major.

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