Paris - Rafael Nadal's shock Roland Garros
exit due to injury has opened the door for several players including one of the
rising stars of the game, Dominic Thiem.
The 22-year-old Austrian had been heading
towards a last 16 encounter with the nine-time former champion, having lost in
straight sets to him last year in a second round match.
But Nadal's bombshell announcement on
Friday that he would be unable to continue playing the tournament due to a left
wrist injury changed all that.
Thiem did make it through to the fourth
round with a hard-fought 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over German teenager
Alexander Zverev on Saturday, and he has no regrets over not having another
crack at the greatest claycourt player of all time on the Philippe Chatrier
"Well, I already made this experience.
It's not such a nice one," he said ahead of a fourth round clash against
Spain's Marcel Granollers.
"But, no, I mean, it has of course
good sides to play Granollers, but also bad sides.
"Of course maybe I go different into
the match against him than against Rafa, yeah, because against Rafa I'm the
underdog. Against Granollers, I'm probably the favourite."
A win over the unseeded Granollers would
put Thiem into a quarter-final of a Grand Slam for the first time and give him
a good chance of setting up a semi-final meeting against top seed Novak
Long touted as one of the rising stars of
the ATP circuit, Thiem has struggled to make his mark in the biggest
tournaments, but he feels that much has changed over the last year to improve
"There are many things," he said
of his own progression.
"I think the biggest part is the
physical part. I think also physically now I belong to the top, which was not
like this the last years.
"But, yeah, especially in the Grand
Slams, it's really important. I think there I made the biggest step from last
year to this year."
Thiem has already won three tournaments
this year - at Buenos Aires and Nice on clay and at Acapulco on hard-court -
and he has won the most matches (23) on clay so far this season.
But he knows now it is time to perform on
the biggest of stages to show he belongs at the top level.
"Well, I think the ranking doesn't
lie. So for sure I feel that I belong there in the top," he said.
"But, yeah, still I'm kind of missing
a really big result, big tournament. I hope it's gonna happen soon."