Imperious Nadal downs Thiem to claim 11th French Open crown
Rafael Nadal’s remarkable Roland Garros reign continued as the world number one clinched an 11th French Open title with a straight-sets win over Dominic Thiem on Sunday.
Thiem is the only man to have beaten Nadal on clay over the past two seasons, including a surprise victory in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last month, but there was no repeat shock on Court Philippe Chatrier as the top seed prevailed 6-4 6-3 6-2.
Nadal’s latest triumph in Paris sees him join Margaret Court, who dominated the Australian Open in the 1960s and 70s, as the only player to win 11 singles titles at one grand slam.
By contrast, Thiem was competing in his maiden major final and although he matched his illustrious opponent for large parts of the opening set, he crumbled at the crunch and never really regained his poise.
Nadal has not lost at Roland Garros when taking the first set and that record did not look like coming under threat as he continually rebuffed Thiem’s attempts to make inroads into his serve, taking the second courtesy of an early break.
Thiem’s fighting spirit was evident in abundance – he continued to put pressure on Nadal through his return game, while consistently scrapping to stave off perilous positions on his own serve – but ultimately the Spaniard’s quality and, often, his sheer force of will, won the day.
Nadal appeared to be suffering with cramp in his left arm early in the third but even that discomfort could not derail him as the ‘King of Clay’ extended his scarcely believable French Open win-loss record to 86-2, further underlining his status as the greatest of all time on the red dirt.The King of Clay captures his 11th Roland-Garros title 6-4 6-3 6-2.
In his 24th grand slam final, Nadal immediately looked comfortable in familiar surroundings and broke at the first time of asking as Thiem sent a backhand long and then dumped a forehand into the net.
The Austrian won just one point in falling 2-0 behind but got back on serve immediately courtesy of two pinpoint forehands, and three rescued break points over games four and six were further evidence of his growing confidence.
However, at the most inopportune of moments, Thiem’s composure deserted him as a succession of unforced errors – including a simple volley into the net and a routine forehand long – handed Nadal a break to love and the opening set.
The Spaniard was quick to hammer home his advantage at the start of the second, converting his fifth break point of a lengthy game as Thiem’s usually trusty backhand let him down.
A deft drop shot earned Thiem the opportunity to break back at 4-2 as the seventh seed strived to find a chink in the armour, but Nadal quickly found a response and got the better of a spectacular rally en route to a big hold.
The second set was wrapped up as Thiem sent a backhand into the tramlines but the Austrian refused to capitulate and managed to save four break chances in the opening game of the third.
A well-disguised drop shot served him well at 30-40 down in game three but in opting for power soon afterwards he netted a forehand, affording Nadal another break chance that was gobbled up.
Although Nadal subsequently received treatment on his forearm it seemingly had little adverse effect and, after a second break of serve, his 11th triumph was secured at the fifth time of asking when Thiem sent a return long.
Nadal  bt Thiem  6-4 6-3 6-2
Nadal – 26/24
Thiem – 34/42
Nadal – 0/3
Thiem – 7/5
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/17
Thiem – 1/3
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 68
Thiem – 57
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 82/46
Thiem – 67/34
Nadal – 105
Thiem – 79