Rafael Nadal needed less than a set to take command of the French Open final, and he overcame a late problem with his racket-holding hand to earn a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros by beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday. "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".
Nadal called it "not even a dream" to gather 11 titles in Paris, saying it was "impossible to think of something like this". He and Federer have claimed ownership of the past six Grand Slam titles in men's tennis.
A left hand cramp in the third and final set proved to be no real obstacle for Nadal, the Spaniard showing he was approaching his best form ahead of the grass court season. "I played a great match against a great player", said Nadal. "I was very scared because I could not hold the racquet". The other three are Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Federer, all of whom have won four each. 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. After guzzling water during his visit from the doctor, Nadal was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.
Nadal wept after being handed the trophy by Australian legend Ken Rosewall - who won the inaugural French Open in 1968.
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 then served out that game. Nadal pushed through the mysterious pain and held on against Thiem's impressive backhand returns and - at times - equally matching forearm volleys. Serving at less than 50%, Nadal got plenty of looks at second serves.
But he shook off the early nerves and broke back in the third game with forehand victor ― pumping his fists in the direction of coach Gunter Bresnik. Thiem forces a deuce with a forehand down the line, but concedes the game with a couple of loose shots.
After Nadal won the first, there was an air of inevitability.
"It's fantastic now, I can't describe my feelings", Nadal told the crowd on Philippe Chatrier Court moments after capturing his 17th Grand Slam trophy with a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory.
Despite the loss, the 24-year-old Austrian said it had been a "great two weeks" for him. But after, the Spaniard was imperious.
He has not been broken since.
The first set had taken 57 minutes, in stiflingly humid conditions, but there was to be no let-up for the underdog in the second.
Rafael Nadal suffered a cramp which required immediate medical timeout
A wild, misguided forehand sealed his fate, one of 18 unforced errors to Nadal's 12 in the set.
He hit a forehand long for 0-30 and then hit another forehand into the net to gift Nadal three set points.
He followed that up with his second title at Wimbledon with a straight-sets victory over Czech Tomas Berdych.
Maybe nerves were a factor in Thiem's performance. The drama for Nadal this time around, it seemed, would be self-inflicted.
The crowd cheered when Zidane was shown on the big screen. He converted the second to make the score 2-1.
The 10-time champion is playing Dominic Thiem.
Nadal has never lost at Roland Garros following an opening set victory.
Still, Nadal was able to complete the job on court Philippe-Chatrier.
To commemorate Nadal's record-breaking win, Nike is releasing a limited-edition T-shirt that features the number 11 and Nadal's signature logo.
Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the last two years after wins in Madrid this year and Rome in 2017.
The women's doubles final is also Sunday. There is a slight chance of rain, but not until later in the afternoon after 5pm.