"Always, to play Rafa here on this court, is always the ultimate challenge, one of the toughest challenges in sports in general", Thiem said Saturday after his five-set, two-day semifinal win over Novak Djokovic.
1973 - The year that Margaret Court won her fifth French Open, which marked the previous time an Australian - man or woman - had won Roland Garros before Barty's title Saturday.
The fourth set was a messy affair, with three consecutive breaks in the first four games and even the net cord getting in on the act - a couple of freakish bounces off the net going against the world No 1 - but Djokovic took it to force a decider as Thiem double-faulted. Against Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round, and a quarter-final loss to Novak Djokovic four years ago.
With rain clouds closing in Thiem broke serve with a huge forehand early in the third, shortly before play was suspended for the day.
The Austrian now needs to end Nadal's 11-match winning streak that has seen him win the Italian Open and drop just one set in Paris, to David Goffin in the third round.
The lack of focus drifted into his play, too, including a serve-and-volley attempt that handed that set to Thiem. But they're 2-2 on the surface over the past two years, and Thiem won their most recent clash, in April, in straight sets at Barcelona. As it transpired the tournament was hasty in doing so, because the rain did not come and they could have come back out and played on for around an hour.
Djokovic was a point from losing when Thiem served at 5-3, 40-15.
Despite the wind, the level of play was exceedingly high, featuring long rallies and a delicious variety of slice backhands, deft drop-shots and gutsy passing shots. Thiem, on the other hand, enters this match with a bit of an up and down (or should I say down and up) performance in Paris. Thiem's coach Nicolas Massu asked tournament officials on Saturday to move the finals to Monday, but had his request denied. Nadal also knows these conditions better than anybody, so I trust him more given the wind/rain we've been dealing with these past few days.
Asked why the postponement came, Djokovic replied: "I don't know".
One game from victory and at 0-15 on the Djokovic serve, Thiem error's helped a relieved Djokovic hang on. Thiem is 4-8 overall in his career vs. Nadal and has beaten Nadal on European clay in each of the past three years.
And on a break point, he snatched at his backhand and sent it into the net.