Nadal exit opens door for Thiem

 28 May 2016 - 17:21

Nadal exit opens door for Thiem
 Rafael Nadal of Spain attends a news conference - Paris, France - 27/05/16. REUTERS/Stringer 

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 Centre Court. 

"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 Djokovic.

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 his game.

"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 hardcourt -- 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."