KEY POINTS

  • Rafael Nadal recently won the Italian Open
  • Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in the final
  • Dominic Thiem still a “complete player,” says Francisco Roig

Rafael Nadal’s alternate coach Francisco Roig has said there is “no difference” between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem on clay.

Roig’s comments come ahead of the 2021 French Open, which is due to begin on May 24 (Monday) in Paris. Roig will be a part of Nadal’s team as the defending champion attempts to chase a record 14th title at his fortress of the Stade Roland Garros.

After winning the Italian Open recently, Nadal once again showed he would not be easy to beat in Paris. However, his coach Roig believes that Austria’s Thiem still could be a major threat despite his recent struggles. Even though Thiem’s level may have taken a hit since winning the U.S. Open last year, Roig still thinks he is still a "complete player" who makes it very physically demanding to face him.

Speaking with ATP’s official website, Roig said: "Novak Djokovic is still the rival, perhaps, who can cause more problems, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem."

"Of course, if Thiem regains the rhythm and confidence that he usually shows on clay, I would say that I do not see differences between him and Djokovic. Since he won the US Open, he has dropped a bit, but I’m sure that for Roland Garros, he will be at the necessary level and will be a very tough opponent. He is a very complete player, who demands a lot in each hit, if you leave the ball a little short, the point is over. On a physical level, he is very demanding," he added.

Going into the Roland-Garros, Nadal will have a 9-6 lead in the head-to-head against World No. 4 Thiem. While Nadal won the Italian Open last week, Thiem was beaten in the Round of 16 and continuing his poor form, he was eliminated from Lyon Open on Thursday.

Rafael Nadal (R) and Novak Djokovic (L) played each other for the 57th time. Rafael Nadal (R) and Novak Djokovic (L) played each other for the 57th time. Photo: AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE

Meanwhile, Roig has also suggested that Nadal needs to improve his serve, keeping in mind the French Open, before acknowledging that it has bettered in recent games.

"Looking ahead to Roland Garros, I think a little more mobility is important. At the level of aerobic capacity, he has been very good, holding out in games, but I think we have room for improvement when moving. It can still be a more dynamic point, both forward and in lateral mobility. And the serve must also be worked on, although it has gotten better and better. In fact, against Djokovic, he was already pretty good, " added Roig in the same interview.