Just noticed that the six times Thiem has lost at the French Open, five of them were to Djokodal (Rafa 4, Novak 1) and a tight four setter against Cuevas in 2015. It seemingly takes the best in the world to stop him at the dirt major.
This, for the umpteenth time, does not mean the guy would've won against lesser competition
, and the numbers in this case indeed tell a different story. As I've pointed out Thiem was statistically underwhelming in '18 and '19 when he respectively won 56.1% and 56.3% of his games on clay. His career high actually came in '17 when he won 58.4%, and while this conversion rate isn't bad per se it still pales in comparison to that of other non-FO champs from years past. See for yourself:
Again we're looking at guys who failed to win a single FO, or even reached a FO final. And this was against the entire field, not just Djokodal or whoever was tops back then, not to mention that apart from those two* only Cilic has come close to achieving the 60% milestone
after 2015 (or that the depth of CC competition has been on a downhill trend since the '90s - follow the below link). There's nothing in these #s that suggests Thiem wouldn't have struggled to win RG in previous eras if not for Djokodal.
So what's his problem then? After all the guy is arguably the biggest hitter active today, right? Well, turns out returning 15 feet from behind the baseline may not be a winning strategy even on clay when your name isn't Rafael Nadal:
So only in '17 did he ever crack 30% in return games won. To put this in perspective it's historically been the 40% threshold
that all but guarantees the player a FO in the year proper or some other year. In short Dominic's return position is not a choice or preference but a necessity. His long backswing off both wings leaves him vulnerable to redlining opponents even on clay, and while Rafa can afford to stand far back thanks to his unmatched footwork and agility (though even he's been trying to shorten points in recent years) Thiem simply can't match him in either area to be able to get away with it.
TBF the guy is still 27 and may well go on to surprise us now that he's bagged a major, but even if you buy the standard talking point (I don't) that the increasing physicality of today's game has made it favorable to veterans, dirtballing most likely remains a young man's game and Thiem probably has 3-4 more years tops for a realistic shot at RG.
*Not that Novak himself has been such a world-beater of late. Here are his own %s of games won on clay since 2016 when Thiem reached his 1st FO SF:
2016 - 59.7%
2017 - 56.7%
2018 - 56.9%
2019 - 59.4%
Again not bad by any means, but pretty mediocre by championship standards. Now Djoko's career average stands at an impressive 58.8%, which would be the envy of almost any dirtballer apart from Rafa, Borg and probably Lendl, but his level has always been fairly steady and he falls short of Courier and Bruguera
in season peak or Kuerten
when redlining, let alone those CC giants. And suffice it to say Fed was barely a factor from '16-'19 (skipped '17 and '18 altogether, won just 55.0% and 56.4% in '16 and '19). Yet more reason to be skeptical of the Thiem hype.