Awe-inspiring Nadal claims record-extending 11th French Open title

Grant SmithJun 11, 2018

As he sat down in the French Open lounge on Saturday, Günter Bresnik, Dominic Thiem's coach, was asked about Thiem's upcoming French Open final against Rafael Nadal, the finest clay court tennis player of all time.

When he was recovering from injury this year, for the umpteenth time in his career, he was focused on this title and nothing - certainly not Dominic Thiem - was going to stand in his way.

Theim lost his maiden Grand Slam final in straight sets against Nadal at Roland Garros.

"What you did and what you are doing", Thiem told Nadal during the trophy ceremony, "is one of the most outstanding things that any athlete is doing in any sport". Thiem stayed with Nadal in the early going on a steamy afternoon. He suffered one service break, in the third game of the match, which came as big news.

A glimmer of hope was when the middle finger on his left hand started to cramp in the middle of the fourth game, causing him to take a salt tablet and have the strapping on his forearm to be removed, which is there to stop the sweat pouring onto his palms. Nadal is a huge Madrid fan, and is often seen at games.

The trainer was called at 30-0 and his intervention appeared to alleviate Nadal's discomfort, who regained his composure, held his serve and then managed to break again in the sixth game before holding out for his 17th Grand Slam title.

Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the title at Roland Garros.

Over the best-of-five sets on clay, Nadal improved to 111-2 - it is a figure nearly as imposing as the nearby Eiffel Tower - his lone reverses coming against Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015 at the French Open.

Nadal threw his arms skywards and turned to his entourage including coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya and his uncle Toni who stood down from his coaching role past year after his nephew worn his 10th French crown.

Nadal struck 26 winners to Thiem's 34 yet made only 24 unforced errors to Thiem's 42, with "unforced errors" a relative term in Nadal Roland Garros matches.

Until 4-all, 15-all in the opening set, to be precise. Nadal's "La Decima" was his 10th French Open, and he managed it without dropping a set throughout the tournament. A volley into the net.

Just like that, Nadal was off on a five-game burst to lead 3-0 in the second set. One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline, leaving Thiem sagging his shoulders and muttering. Those conditions might have contributed to the cramping that affected Nadal about two hours into the final, at 2-1 in the third set.

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