That is according to four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier, who has claimed that Rafael Nadal is almost impossible to beat on clay in a best-of-five matches on clay.
Dominic Thiem lost to Nadal in straight sets in last year’s final, and Courier believes that he will have to be vastly improved if he is to beat the Spaniard this time around.
“He’s going to have to play a nearly flawless match because the next time you see Nadal play a bad match at Roland Garros will be the first time,” Courier told ATPTour.com.
“Nadal is an astonishing 117-2 in best-of-five matches on clay, and 92-2 at Roland Garros.
“So the onus is on Thiem to find solutions to the questions Nadal asks rather than the Spaniard needing to do anything different than he has since earning his first title at this event in 2005.”
Nadal has won 11 titles from 14 visits to Roland Garros since making his debut fourteen years ago.
Only Robin Soderling (2009) and Novak Djokovic (2015) have managed to beat Nadal at the tournament, with the 33-year-old having to pull out through injury in 2016.
Courier has outlined how Thiem could shock Nadal by interrupting his ‘patterns’ and having a chance to punish him during rallies.
He added: “Unless Dominic is doing something that gets him out of his patterns, which would be hitting the hard backhand crosscourt into Nadal’s forehand, it’s just [Rafa] playing into his patterns and forcing Dominic to do something that’s uncomfortable for him.
“If Nadal plays his normal patterns on clay, best of five, it’s been proven that he’s virtually unbeatable. And that will hold tomorrow unless Thiem does something extraordinary.
“Thiem’s going to need to take away Rafa’s patterns.
“He’s going to need to replicate what Novak does so well against Rafa and stand in in the backhand corner, take the ball early, go hard crosscourt to move Nadal out of the centre of the court and then attack with the forehand from there.
“That’s his best chance in the rallies to make damage.
“Novak has really written the playbook on how to play Rafa if you have a certain skill to take on his forehand.”
Ahead of the match, Thiem said: “To play Rafa here on this court is always the ultimate challenge, one of the toughest challenges [in] sports in general.
“I played a really good match against him in Barcelona. It was six weeks ago. So I try to do similar even though it’s way tougher to play him here.”