Rafael Nadal bagged a record-extending 11th French Open title on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 thrashing of Dominic Thiem even as he faced injury scare late in the final. Nadal has now won 17 Grand Slam titles – three lesser than great rival Roger Federer – and matched the all-time record of most titles won at the same Grand Slam event set by Margaret Court at the Australian Open during the 1960s and 70s.
Nadal now stands at 86-2 at French Open and continues to remain unbeaten in finals in Paris. In those 10 finals, Nadal has dropped just six sets but at no stage in the final on Sunday did it look like the number could rise further. Thiem had been the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the last two years – in Rome last year and Madrid this year – but at no stage did he pose a real threat to Nadal who went from strength to strength as the match went on.
The result also marks the sixth consecutive Grand Slam won by either Nadal or Federer.
In the third set, Nadal suffered a blip as he called for the trainer for a cramp in his left hand. The trainer massaged Nadal’s forearms twice but it was still not good enough to halt the Spaniard and the job was complete when Thiem’s backhand sailed long. This time, there were no trademark celebrations of going down on the clay post the win while that of biting the trophy continued to remain alive.
Nadal began each set in similar fashion – by breaking Thiem – and that meant the Austrian would continue to play catch up throughout. He did get the break back in the first set but that was all that Thiem had to rejoice in during the two hours and 42 minutes he spent on court. As both continued to trade blows, the first set remained on serve till 5-4. Thiem grew nervous at that stage to shank four consecutive points and a forehand going long handed Nadal the opening set. The signs already pointed at trouble for Thiem as Nadal boasts of a record of 112-0 after winning the first set in best of five set matches.
The number one ranked player in the world went 2-0 ahead in the second set as he wore Thiem down following a lung-burning rally, leaving the Austrian screaming in frustration. Thiem looked to threaten in the seventh game after bringing up game point but Nadal broke his pace with a drop shot and finished it off with a passing shot, holding for 5-2. He took the second set when Thiem sent a backhand long.
In the third set as well, Thiem started on the back foot and saved four break points from 0-40 down in the first game to hold his serve. But he dropped serve in the third game before Nadal held to make it 3-1 while also taking a quick time out because of the hand injury.
Nadal got another massage at the change of ends at 5-2 and ended Thiem’s ordeal on his fifth match point when the Austrian returned the backhand long.
‘It’s beyond a dream’
“It’s amazing now, I can’t describe my feelings,” Nadal told the crowd on Philippe Chatrier Court moments after winning the title. “It’s not even a dream to win here 11 times, because its impossible to think of something like this.”
Nadal also applauded the 24-year-old Thiem for being aggressive through the course of the tournament. “He’s very aggressive, with big shots. I want to say well played to Dominic. He played a great two weeks. He’s a good friend, one of these players that the tour needs. I am sure you’ll win here in the next couple of years,” added Rafa.
‘One of the most important things in sport’
Despite the defeat, Thiem remained gracious in defeat and hailed Nadal’s herculean effort of winning 11 titles at the same grand slam. Thiem recalled the moment when Nadal had won his first title in Paris. “I still remember when you won here the first time in 2005. I was 11-years-old, watching it on TV and honestly I never expected that one day I would play the finals here so I am still really happy. Thank you to all of you. I love the tournament. I hope soon I get another chance soon, maybe against you (Nadal),” said Thiem while earning a gracious applause.