After months of uncertainty, we are half-way through the 2020 French Open in Paris. And all eyes in the men's draw continue to remain on the top favourites - Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.
While Nadal and Djokovic have looked comfortable through their initial rounds in the first week, third seed Dominic Thiem was taken to five sets by wildcard Hugo Gaston on Sunday. The Frenchman ran Thiem ragged with his drop shots, and the Austrian might find it tough to recover in time for his quarterfinal against Diego Schwartzman.
But German tennis legend Boris Becker, a six-time Grand Slam winner, is eagerly looking forward to the projected semifinal showdown between Nadal and Thiem. Writing in a column for The Daily Mail, Becker said:
"The match I am most eagerly anticipating is on Friday - Rafael Nadal versus Dominic Thiem in the men's semi-finals. That is providing Thiem can recover from his grueling match on Sunday and make it through the quarters."
Becker cited the match against Gaston as a possible reason for Thiem to be less of a threat to Nadal in the semifinals.
"The energy he will have expended in that five-setter only supports my belief that Nadal is favorite to win the event, despite all the question marks against him at the start of it," Becker added.
Rafael Nadal has adapted his game to the conditions at this year's French Open: Boris Becker
Becker, a former World No. 1 who is now a commentator and analyst, also complimented the mentality of the trio for adjusting to the different conditions this year - including the new balls and heavier atmosphere.
The German specifically pointed out how Rafael Nadal has adapted his game by flattening his strokes rather than hitting them with the usual topspin.
"In an example of how Rafael Nadal is always prepared to adapt his game, it looks like he has been flattening out his strokes in the early rounds. Given the slow balls and conditions his usual heavy spin is not quite so effective, so he is hitting through the court more," Becker said.
"Before the tournament he complained about the balls, yet he and the other two main contenders have just gone about their business once the matches got underway," he added. "All of them came in with issues: Rafael Nadal lost in Rome and was short of matches, Novak Djokovic was weighed down by what happened in New York and Thiem had time off after his life-changing win at Flushing Meadows. They are used to having everything perfect for them off the court but they seem to have ignored irritations with the bubble restrictions and the weather that have stressed other players and got on with it."
The German has also picked Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the semi-finals from his section and play against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Tsitsipas, who reached the final of the Hamburg European Open just before this tournament, takes on former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round on Monday.Published 05 Oct 2020, 15:11 IST