Nadal beats Thiem for 11th French Open title

Rafael Nadal

Nadal could equal Margaret Court's record of 11 titles at one Grand Slam

He seemed unbeatable on the surface. Court's major title wins took place at the Australian Open in an era where some of the top players elected not to travel Down Under. Nadal is 49-2 since 2017 when playing on clay.

The next tournament he will be seen in is the Stuttgart Open in Germany.

He now has 86 match wins on Paris' famous crushed red brick against just two defeats in 13 years. In 2009, he was upset by big-hitting Robin Soderling in the fourth round. Or Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for that matter? Nadal also thought his glory days were over as he had drawn a blank at the majors in 2015 and 2016.

What's the French Open equivalent of strawberries and cream?

The 17-time Grand Slam champion expressed his gratitude for the support he felt in the French capital, adding that winning his previous ten titles was already "incredible". After Roland Garros, Nadal's win-loss record on clay stands at 415-36.

But against Thiem, there was nothing wrong with Nadal's start.

Until 4-all, 15-all in the opening set, to be precise.

But he could not match Nadal's point-by-point consistency and intensity on Sunday. It was his 45th career clay-court title.

At least Thiem has in the past found the key to unravelling the Nadal clay court enigma. For a time, fans could nearly believe that Thiem would present a challenge in this match.

Sunday's final will be Nadal's 24th Grand Slam final, putting him second all time.

Whatever the problem, his dominance remained and a love game took him to 4-2 before he eventually sealed victory on a fifth match point when Thiem fired another backhand long. Could Thiem provide us with a classic final?

But once a competive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal's "undecima" never looked in any doubt.

A gracious Thiem said afterwards: "I can still remember being 11 when (Nadal) won here for the first time and I watched on the TV".

In a 10-minute second game of the second set, Thiem suffered more trauma. Of those 20, the Spaniard only won one by hitting a victor. That led to 34 winners (eight more than Nadal) but also 42 unforced errors (18 more than Nadal).

"I had tough moment in the third set with cramps in my hand". It clearly impacted his serve moving forward, but not his ground strokes.

In the meantime, Nadal is scheduled to compete at Queen's Club next week, before bidding for a third Wimbledon title. Between the pair, the two all-time greats have now won the last six Slams.

Federer will return for the upcoming grass season and when asked about his record, Nadal said he has "no obsession" about matching and overtaking the Swiss superstar's achievements.

Tennis has been good for Nadal but he has been just as influential as a key driver of the sport's growth.

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