Here's all you need to know about the Austrian upstart and where the match will be won and lost:
Currently ranked at 57th in the world, Thiem is the highest player in the ATP rankings under the age of 21. Only turning pro in 2012, the Austrian's rise has been nothing short of meteoric, having been ranked outside the top 400 just 18 months ago.
Dominic Thiem plays with a one-handed backhand that bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Stan Wawrinka, who is one of just 7 men to have ever beaten Nadal with a single-hander. A good mover and a big hitter, the 20-year-old made the headlines a few weeks ago when he beat the aforementioned Swiss star in three sets at Madrid, also catching the eye when he took a set off Andy Murray at Rotterdam in February.
So how does he stack up on clay? Thiem enjoyed most of his success while making his way up the tennis ladder on the red stuff, winning all 5 of his Futures titles and making all 3 of his Challenger finals, two of which he won, on this surface.
Prospects for Tomorrow's Match
So Thiem will be more than comfortable on the dirt, and he has the right style of play to trouble Rafa if he can be consistent, but it remains to be seen how he will deal with the occasion. As an unseeded youngster with nothing to lose, you like to think that the Austrian will come out and play with some freedom, and that we'll see how he stacks up against the best in the game.
If you're interested enough in tennis to be reading this, you'll know all about Rafa's clay-court struggles of 2014, but he passed his first test at Roland Garros with flying colours, dropping just 3 games against wildcard entrant Robby Ginepri. He'll take some momentum and confidence from that win, and he'll be comfortable favourite for tomorrow's Round 2 clash with young Thiem. It would certainly be one of the shocks of the decade if the King of Clay was to slip up at a tournament where he has only been vanquished once in nine visits, especially against such a fresh, new face.
Given Thiem's explosive, attacking style, his rise up the rankings and his victory over Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, a lot of tennis fans, particularly those of Nadal's rivals, are looking to this tie as a potential banana-skin for the Spaniard, and given how few people have shown to be capable of taking Rafa down on clay, you can understand the excitement surrounding it.
Personally, I think that if Thiem starts well and gets Rafa on the back foot early on, much like Nishikori, Youzhny and Murray have managed to do in recent weeks, he's got a set in him, most likely the opener. However, that's where my optimism stops for the 20-year-old star, and I'm expecting Nadal to win in four sets at the end of the day.
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