Supplement your enjoyment of the French Open with live comments from Deconstructing Tennis author, Bob Schewior.
Instructions: One match will be featured each day of the competition. Refresh your screen on the changeovers.
Being an excellent observer is a part of having a complete mental game. Schewior will point out exactly WHAT to pay attention to and WHEN in his real time commentary.
Learning how to "see" what is happening not only makes a match more fun to watch, but it will also make you a better competitor.
Live comments to begin just after 9am EST.
Conditions matter! It's a damp day - no possible rain until later. This gives Thiem more of a chance as Rafa's high-bouncing topspin will not jump as high. If there is a rain delay, it will help Rafa.
Thiem elects to receive. Acknowledges that he's nervous. You can't deal with nerves unless you admit it.
Great start from Rafa.
0-1: Rafa moving extremely well. He's locked in. First break points for Thiem. Both players show some nerves with mishits. Thiem takes advantage.
1-2: Weak volley from Thiem. As I noted in the Preview, this is a key for him. Thiem still fighting himself. Survives with Nadal's help - another mishit. Mishits are a direct route to seeing a player's confidence.
2-2: Thiem gets first point - his first lead. First ball error. Total choke target at 15-all by Thiem. Thiem not comfortable with the idea that he can win.
2-3: Bad decision by Thiem on the line call. Great swing volley by Rafa. Thiem overplays a forehand. If Thiem can win this game, he can settle down. Too anxious.
3-3: Another lead for Thiem. Does he miss early again? Rafa falls behind and gets more aggressive!
3-4: Rafa's fh not doing enough. 15-40 double fault - tight. Great game otherwise from Thiem.
4-4: Hmm. First point - Rafa attacks with his forehand. And then again. Thiem's fh has been the force so far, however.
4-5: How will Thiem handle scoring pressure? There's that volley again. Choke. Then 3 fh errors - yikes! Rafa handles the pressure like a champion. 6-4
Comment: I got Thiem in this! He can attack towards Nadal forehand side!!!
I don't think so. It's the beginning of the end.
2nd set: In the Preview I suggested that Thiem stand in more on returns. He's doing well with that! But still down 0-1.
0-1: Rafa wears him down with some help from another df.
2-0: Rafa continues to wear Thiem down - finishes with a bh forced error.
0-3: Looks like 6-3, 6-3 from here. Routine hold.
3-1: Rafa starts with missed fh. And another missed fh. Responds with bh winner. 40-30 Thiem stands in again on return and is successful. But misses same play on Rafa's next ad point. Doesn't quite believe in the play.
1-4: Thiem playing within himself on first point. This is the way he should have started the match. See my prior post - Preview.
4-2: Making Rafa work! Preview also said Rafa plays break points with drop shots. Yikes! And another one. Too bad Thiem didn't read my scouting report!
2-5: Routine hold. Thiem playing still within himself. Good for him.
5-3: Routine hold. 2 sets to love. 6-3.
0-0: Thiem really needs to stick within himself. His only chance is that Rafa will lose a bit of focus now that he's got a big lead. No loss of focus from Rafa - Thiem holds from 0-40. Sticking to his plan!
0-1: Good aggressive game from Rafa.
1-1: Thiem rushes just one point - that's all it takes. Break to Rafa.
2-1: Hand cramping! I've had this - it will go away in a couple of games. This is Thiem's chance! Play Nadal's fh where he can't use his right hand to help himself.
1-3: Routine hold. Rafa looking not quite right.
3-2: Thiem passed up opportunity to attack on first point. Great game from Rafa - staying on the attack!
2-4: Thiem lets up and guess what? Break. Rafa serving for the match.
5-2: Nothing left in Thiem. Congratulations Rafa! The NextGen will have to wait another year.
Comment: Bob, Great match commentary and analysis. You’re absolutely right about those moments when Thiem put himself in the lead and then either held back or choked. How can he overcome that?
Does he need to just go for more?
And good thought about when Nadal down getting more aggressive!
Even though I thought Thiem played a 3.5/10, all credit to Rafa. He is the king of clay and knows how to play a big match and let opponent self destruct, then go for the kill!!! Thiem will beat him next year, I’ll double my bet...
An attempt to answer your question: At the end of day, Thiem's plan was to stand in more on the return and thereby put reaction time pressure on Rafa. While he played some truly fine points using this tactic, he did not win as many points against Rafa's serve as did either Schwartzman or Del Potro. The flaw was using this tactic way too often. He should have waited for the bigger points (30-all, 30-40, etc) to use this. The reason is simple: Rafa, like all great champions, can adjust to almost anything when he's seen it a few times. Thiem's "plan" did not keep Rafa sufficiently mixed up.