Another year another French Open title for Rafael Nadal. He first won it back in 2005 and here were are in 2018 and Rafa’s still chugging along, still collecting trophies and still breaking the spirits and King of Clay wannabees. Today, Dominic Thiem became the seventh different player Nadal has vanquished in the French Open, and he did so in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours, 45 minutes.
“Coming back and to have the chance to win in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, and now especially here, it’s very emotional for me,” said Nadal. “It was a very special moment and well received, that minute or two minutes of the crowd supporting me. That feeling in that moment was difficult to describe it. Very emotional for me.
“What really matters for me is have this trophy again with me. That means a lot. As everybody knows, for me is the most important tournament of the year. But I always say the same. Tennis is not only about Grand Slams. There’s much more tournaments, a lot of important tournaments that, for me, means a lot. But of course Roland Garros is always on the calendar and a special date.
“So winning here after having the clay court season that I had is, yeah, emotional and that give me calm and confidence to keep going.”
The forecast called for some rain, but at game time at 3pm in Paris not a drop was to be seen. Rafa started quick breaking Thiem for 2-0 but just when you thought that was it, Thiem got back on serve. And thanks to his forehand, Thiem managed to go toe-to-toe with Rafa.
Thiem has beaten Rafa the past three years, most recently last month in Madrid. He could hang, he has the confidence. Right? Wrong. This was a Grand Slam final, his first and Nadal’s 24th.
And sure enough, serving at 4-5, ka-boom. Thiem was broken at love. Then broken again in a lengthy opening service game of the second and at that point the match was effectively over.
Rafa was cruising on serve while Thiem was struggling on his. And 30 minutes later the second set went to Nadal.
In the third, Thiem saved some break points to hold the opening game of the set, but he couldn’t hold off Nadal in his next service game.
With Rafa up a break and serving 2-1, the end was nigh. But at 30-0, out of nowhere, Nadal looked in distress. He was. His left hand or his fingers began to cramp. Nadal went to his chair, got treatment and returned only to double fault.
Hope for Thiem? Hope for the rest of the tour? Nope.
Despite the minor ailment, Rafa got back into rhythm. Then serving 5-2, won it on his 5th match point.
“It was a cramping on the finger but not a normal cramping. Probably because I had the bandage here, it created pressure that probably didn’t allow the right circulation,” Rafa said.
“For me it was scary, because I felt that I was not able to move the hand, the finger. I was not under control.”
The numbers are staggering:
17 Grand Slam titles
11 French Open
57 career clay titles
79 Overall titles
96-2 at the French
111-2 in best-of-5 matches on clay
And on and on. And I guess he’s just 32. So why not more? The guy is ridiculously good on this surface.
Granted, it wasn’t the toughest of fields, but he did destroy both Juan Martin Del Potro and Thiem six sets to none, and he only dropped one set.
Guys do have off days even at their most favorite events. No Rafa. Not at Roland Garros.
For Thiem, he got one step further and I think once Rafa does decline – in 15 years or so (haha) – he’ll be the right there among the favorites with Alexander Zverev and I think that Greek kid Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I think it was the first time against him here in Roland Garros where it was a fight,” said Thiem. “It was a decent match from my side. He was playing very well, I think, and there is a reason why he won 11 times here. It’s definitely one of the best things somebody ever achieved in sport.
“For sure I’m confident that this was not my last Grand Slam final, and that’s my biggest goal, to get into the next one and then to do it better than today.”
But unfortunately, as long as Rafa’s around and healthy, how do you pick anyone to beat him?
“I am very satisfied, and I feel very lucky with all the things that happened it me,” said Nadal. “Of course I would love to have 20 like Roger in the future or even more, but being honest, it is not on my mind. What is in my mind now is I won a very important title for me. I add one more Grand Slam. Seventeen is an amazing number. I’m just going to keep fighting and that’s it.”
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