Dominic Thiem is as confident as anyone on the ATP Tour. Fresh off winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, the Austrian has looked impressive at Roland Garros. The third seed hasn’t dropped a set against former Top 10 stars Marin Cilic and Jack Sock.
“I’ve always looked up to Rafa a lot and players like him and Thiem, they play with great intensity. And in some matches, when you look at them, they’ve kind of already won the match it seems like, before they walk on the court because their opponent knows it’s going to be so tough to beat them on clay,” Ruud told ATPTour.com last year. “That’s a point I would like to get to in my career. When I step on a clay court, [I want] the guy on the other side of the net to think, ‘Oh, this guy is a really, really good player and I’ll have to play my best tennis for three hours if I’ll have a chance to beat him.’”
Ruud has proven himself capable on the surface. The 21-year-old leads the ATP Tour with 17 clay-court victories this season. He won his first tour-level title earlier this year on clay in Buenos Aires. In his first ATP Head2Head clash against Thiem, he will try to make a splash, led by his heavy forehand.
While Ruud is trying to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time, Thiem has reached at least the semi-finals in Paris the past four years. He is now 26-6 at the clay-court major and is trying to win his second consecutive Slam.
The Spaniard has only dropped two sets in 14 third-round matches at Roland Garros. Nadal has lost just twice on clay at tour-level against opponents ranked as low as World No. 74. The last time it happened was when he was 18 at 2004 Palermo against Olivier Mutis.
Nadal is not focussing on the heavy conditions in Paris, instead worrying about how he executes his game.
“I am just trying my best every single day. I am working hard in every practice to try to be better and better in every match,” Nadal said after his second-round victory against Mackenzie McDonald. “Today was not that cold, so that’s the main thing. [When it is] not that cold, the conditions are not that bad. The ball is still heavy. When it’s not that cold, the ball is always a little bit less heavy.”
Zverev beat Cecchinato 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3 at this year’s Australian Open, but clay is the Italian’s best surface. The World No. 110 is a three-time ATP Tour titlist, with each of those victories coming on clay.
Internazionali BNL d’Italia finalist Diego Schwartzman will try to maintain his strong form against Slovakian Norbert Gombos and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka battles the last Frenchman remaining in the draw, 20-year-old wild card Hugo Gaston.
“Stan is a great player, a great champion. I have a lot of respect for him. But when I return to the court, I’m going to do everything to win, being respectful, and then see what comes out,” Gaston said. “Of course I remember when he won here, I’m a fan of tennis in general, so I watch the sport a lot. Obviously, this final, I watched it, and it was very inspiring. But when I’m going to be on the court, I’m going to do everything to win.”
The other three singles matches on Friday will feature 27th seed Taylor Fritz against Italian Lorenzo Sonego, reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner playing Federico Coria and qualifiers Sebastian Korda and Pedro Martinez battling for a spot in the fourth round.