Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Rafa's still the man says beaten young hopeful Dominic Thiem

updated 3:10 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Rafael Nadal's straight sets win over Dominic Thiem was his 60th at the clay court grand slam. Rafael Nadal's straight sets win over Dominic Thiem was his 60th at the clay court grand slam.
60 up in Paris
Well played
Thiem battle
Future star?
Strong Murray
Jankovic challenge
  • Defending champion Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem at the French Open
  • Nadal eases past the promising Austrian in straight sets at Roland Garros
  • There were also victories for Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Jelena Jankovic
  • The tournament has already lost Serena Williams, Li Na and Stan Wawrinka

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- Rafael Nadal came into the French Open with his air of invincibility punctured by recent defeats but his beaten opponent Thursday -- Austrian hopeful Dominic Thiem -- believes the eight-time champion is still the man to beat at this year's French Open.

The 20-year-old Thiem admits Nadal was "one of his idols" growing up but showed little sign of being overawed as he detained the top seed for over two hours on Philippe Chatrier before succumbing to a 6-2 6-2 6-3 defeat in their second round match.

But Thiem, the youngest man in the top 100 of the world rankings, currently occupying 57th spot, saw enough in Nadal's game to predict he will be holding the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy aloft on Sunday week.

Rafael Nadal: Comeback was difficult
Wawrinka's first grand slam victory

Read: Ferrer shocks Nadal in Monte Carlo

"I think here in Roland Garros there are only a few man who can beat him, but yes he is the biggest favorite," Thiem told CNN.

Nadal suffered shock quarterfinal defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and in last week's Rome final to Novak Djokovic, but Thiem believes he is an altogether different proposition at the clay court grand slam.

"He's in his element at his favorite venue and he's really pumped up," he said. "His top spin is really tough to counter and he didn't make a lot of mistakes."

After his victory, Nadal was also full of praise for his young opponent and applauded him off the court.

"He has completely everything to become a champion," he predicted. "He as able to hit the ball very strong from the backhand and the forehand."

Thiem, who beat Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round of the Madrid Masters earlier this year, admitted to "feeling a little bit nervous" as he walked out on to the center court at a grand slam for the first time,

"But fortunately I made a good start which helped a bit," he added.

Wawrinka wins Australian Open
Serena defends French Open title

He will now head to Queens Club in London to get grass court preparation ahead of Wimbledon, while Nadal will next play Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the third round, seeking the 61st victory of his record breaking career at the French Open.

Read: Djokovic stuns Nadal in Rome

Even though he was expected to overcome Thiem, Nadal must have been slightly relieved as several big names have exited the tournament already.

They include women's number one and defending champion, Serena Williams, second-seed Li Na and Wawrinka -- the man Nadal lost to in the Australian Open final.

Elsewhere, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, and 2013 finalist David Ferrer, advanced with straight sets wins in the men's draw.

Murray led Nadal by a break in the third set at the Rome Masters earlier this month, only for the 13-time grand slam winner to rally.

They could meet again in the semifinals in Paris, although Murray must first get past Philipp Kohlschreiber in the next round.

Kohlschreiber won a clay-court title last weekend in his native Germany and crushed the Scot on clay in Monte Carlo in 2010 in their lone head-to-head.

Read: Double blow for Williams sisters

In the women's tournament, fourth seed Simona Halep of Romania, tipped by many for grand slam glory soon, beat Heather Watson of Britain 6-2 6-4.

Serbian sixth seed Jelena Jankovic, who could directly benefit from the loss of Li Na in her section of the draw, continued her fine form in Paris with a 7-5 6-0 dismissal of Japan's Kurumi Nara.

Former world number one and French Open champion Ana Ivanovic also went though while Sloane Stephens kept American hopes high in the absence of the defeated Williams with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Polona Hercog of Slovenia.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
updated 7:01 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
updated 9:14 PM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
Rafael Nadal is still the "King of Clay" -- but his crown has slipped a bit, says CNN's Will Edmonds.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
updated 7:59 PM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
British tennis player Elena Baltacha won 11 ITF Pro Circuit titles during her 16-year playing career.
The Ukrainian-born, British tennis star loses fight against liver cancer, just a few weeks after revealing that she was battling the disease.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis."
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
At the 2009 Australian Open, French men's tennis was the talk of the town.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 14: Rafael Nadal of Spain sails a boat during day two of the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Tennis at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club on April 14, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal may be most at home on a clay tennis court, but he has always found comfort on the sea.