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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Dominic Thiem puts the 'pressure' on Rafael Nadal ahead of French Open final

Austrian seventh seed is bidding for his first grand slam title but believes all the expectations are on the 10-time Roland Garros champion

Rafael Nadal, left, is aiming for his 11th French Open title while Dominic Thiem, right, is bidding for his first. EPA
Rafael Nadal, left, is aiming for his 11th French Open title while Dominic Thiem, right, is bidding for his first. EPA

Dominic Thiem has insisted that all the pressure will be on Rafael Nadal when the pair meet in Sunday's French Open final.

Thiem, 24, is seeking to win his first grand slam title in his debut appearance in a major final, and the Austrian seventh seed has been in impressive form throughout the two weeks in Paris.

However, to get his hands on La Coupe des Mousquetaires, Thiem will have to defeat the most formidable player in the tournament's history - 10-time champion Nadal.

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Sunday's showdown may represent Thiem's best chance of winning a grand slam so far, but the Austrian has attempted to downplay the situation by living up to his underdog tag.

"I've gone a very long way now and I don't want to lose the final, otherwise it's not a very nice feeling," he said. "But at the other end it's so tough to go all the way in such a tournament and, if I'm facing Rafa, I'm not the one who has the pressure."

Nadal, who has beaten Thiem in six of their nine meetings, will start the final as the favourite. But the Austrian is the only player to beat the Spanish top seed on clay over the past two years - in the 2017 Italian Open quarter-finals before winning their most recent meeting in the Madrid Open last-eight in May.

"He's the big favourite against everybody and still I know how to play against him," Thiem said. "I have a plan and ... I will try everything for my plan to work out here, not only in Madrid or in Rome.

"If I want to beat him I have to play the way I did in Rome and in Madrid. But I'm also aware that here it's tougher. I think he likes the conditions more here than in Madrid, for sure, and best of five is also a different story."

Nadal is aware of the challenge posed by Thiem, and the world No 1 said he will need to find another level if he wants to win French Open title No 11.

"I have a very difficult match against a player that is playing great and I know I have to play at my best if I want to have chances," Nadal, 32, said. "The good thing is, I played a lot of good matches this clay court season so Sunday is the day to give my best, it's a day to increase a little bit more the level.

"Dominic is one of those players who has the chance to win every tournament that he's playing and maybe even more here at Roland Garros because he's strong physically, he has the power."