Roland Garros odds: Breaking down Dominic Thiem’s nightmare draw

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09: Dominic Thiem of Austria reacts during his man's singles match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on Day 15 of the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros on June 09, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09: Dominic Thiem of Austria reacts during his man's singles match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on Day 15 of the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros on June 09, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images) /

Dominic Thiem is looking to get to his third straight Roland Garros final and this time exit with a win. However, he’ll have to face a nightmare draw on his way to the top.

The ATP draw for the year’s third major event has been released and the biggest headline, by far, is how terribly Dominic Thiem fared. The two-time defending finalist at the event and the tour’s most recent ATP Grand Slam champion is going to have a tough time working his way through this year.

His draw starts against a former major champion, Marin Cilic. While Cilic’s form has significantly dropped since the 2014 US Open, he’s still a tough opponent to face, especially in the first round. Cilic took Thiem to four sets in New York earlier this month before suffering his third-round defeat, and also defeated David Goffin in Rome this past week before falling in the Round of 16.

After Cilic comes another huge server: Reilly Opelka. The young up-and-comer has had a stellar season so far. He captured his second career title in Delray Beach and reached the quarterfinals of last month’s Western & Southern Open before having to retire due to injury. He’s played only ten matches on clay in his career and won just two of them. His big serve takes a hit on the high-bouncing surface that diminished speed in favor of the return. That will especially help someone like Thiem, who’s already shown he’ll be in another city to return serve these next two weeks.

Casper Ruud would be Thiem’s next projected opponent. He’s had a stellar 2020 campaign and is at the top of his game so far in this shortened clay swing. He won his first ATP-level title in Buenos Aires in February and looks clearly ready to make a splash based on his performance so far this month. he took down Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic, and Matteo Berrettini before falling to Novak Djokovic in Rome and is still alive in Hamburg after taking out Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals. He’s certainly a threat to give Thiem trouble if he continues this stretch of excellence. If so, there’s always a possibility for a shock upset.

More from Lob and Smash

From this point forward, it gets extremely interesting. Thiem will face either Felix Auger-Aliassime or Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round, barring any upset. The track record of both players have been incredible throughout their careers. In the case of Wawrinka, the three-time Grand Slam champion has already captured a title in Paris and certainly has the game to out-play anyone. While he hasn’t won a title since 2017, Wawrinka is still a perennial quarterfinalist in majors and is certainly a threat if he gets through to meet Theim

Auger-Aliassime is one of the ATP’s brightest stars. He hs the tools to be one of the best players in the world right alongside Thiem and the rest in a few years. As of now though, his inconsistencies are simply t great for him to be a factor in the second week of a major. In their last bout (at this year’s US Open Round of 16), Auger-Aliassime put together a solid first set before getting “double breadsticked” in the second and third. The potential is clearly there but he has yet to put together a solid string of matches against high-level players. If he’s on his best game, however, Thie could be in a little bit of trouble.

Thiem’s projected quarterfinal opponents are two well-respected veterans with great track records on clay: Diego Schwartzman and Gael Monfils. Schwartzman has been subject to more recent news after taking out Rafael Nadal in Rome before ultimately falling to Novak Djokovic in the final. His straight-sets defeat of the 12-time Roland Garros champion was extraordinary, considering the fact that Nadal has lost a match in straight sets on the surface since he was defeated by Thiem in Barcelona last year.

Monfils, while more of the hard-court threat, is still worthy of a strong mention in this possible matchup. He currently holds a 66.4% win percentage on clay in his time on the ATP Tour and has reached his career-best Grand Slam result at Roland Garros (where he reached the semifinals in 2008 before falling to Roger Federer in four sets).

Possibly the toughest semifinal test out of any of the top seeds will come for Thiem. He’ll be set to face either Alexander Zverev or Rafael Nadal, both of whom have proven their worth as the top players in the world, especially in the case of the latter. Whether or not Zverev is able to make it far is anyone’s guess but a rematch of the pair 4-hour US Open epic would surely be the match to watch down the stretch. If he’s able to get into this year’s semifinal, it’ll be his best career performance in Paris.

There isn’t a need for an introduction when it comes to Rafael Nadal. The 12-time champion at this event is entering the tournament with a title on clay for the first time since 2015. This would be, if he wins the event, the first time in his career that he’d win the title without previously claiming a victory at a clay tuneup. Thiem has been a major sore end for Nadal over the last couple of years, however. Nadal has taken 3 of their last 5 meetings but Thiem has claimed 2 of the last 3 and has the pair’s only straight-set win in their last five matchups.

If Thiem is able to score his marquee clay win and advance to his third straight Roland Garros final, he’ll likely be up against the undefeated* Novak Djokovic. The current World #1 currently holds a 31-1 record and has captured 4 titles so far in 2020. What makes Djokovic an even tougher matchup is due to the Serbian’s hunger for the all-elusive double career Grand Slam. A win here would give him his second title in Paris, and in what looks to be the most wide-open tournament it’s been since Nadal was held out due to injury in 2016.

What are Thiem’s chances realistically?

Despite his rough draw this year, he’s still a top-three candidate to take the title. On clay, he’s leaps and bounds above his young counterparts (Medvedev, Zverev, etc). While they’ll still be some trouble, Thiem has consistently proven himself as the second-best player in the world on the surface behind Nadal.

dark. Next. Build-a-player: The makeup for the best ATP player

Time will tell. A strong start over Cilic and Opelka will surely give him a ton of confidence rolling into his tougher later-round matches. A slow start might just be his end. While he has shown that he’s been able to fight out of large deficits, his luck needs to eventually run out at some point, and it could be in these next two weeks.