Rafael Nadal captured a record-extending 12th French Open title by overcoming the fierce challenge from Dominic Thiem to win 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 on Sunday.
In a rematch of last year’s final, the Spaniard proved to be the king of the red dirt of Roland Garros as he became the first man or woman to win the same Grand Slam tournament 12 times – moving clear of the 11 titles won by Margaret Court at the Australian Open.Sponsored link
An 18th Grand Slam title overall moved Nadal to within two of Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record.
“The first thing I want to say is congrats to Dominic and sorry because he deserves it too,” said Nadal.
“I really hope he will get the chance to win in the future because he has a big passion for the sport and he’s a hard worker and I want to encourage him.
“I cannot explain my feelings. For me it was a dream to play here for the first time in 2005. It’s truly incredible and very special for me.”
It was the fourth straight day that Thiem was in action because of inclement weather in Paris, whereas Nadal came into the match well-rested, having played his quarter-final on Tuesday and his semi-final on Friday.
Thiem was a man flowing with confidence having already beaten Nadal in straight sets in the Barcelona Open semi-finals in April, and he produced a stunning upset over Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals to end the world No 1’s hopes of holding all four Grand Slam titles.
The Austrian fourth seed went toe-to-toe with the 33-year-old in a magnificent opening set, full of jaw-dropping rallies, with both players straining every sinew on a sun-drenched Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Thiem appeared to have the edge with a break for 3-2 but his advantage was wiped out immediately and four games in a row sealed the set for the Spaniard after 53 minutes of brutal, bruising tennis.
The second set was tight and tense with neither player giving an inch until Thiem, 25, took the ascendancy in the 12th game. Two unexpected errors from Nadal and some intelligent play from Thiem saw him rewarded, taking it 7-5. It was only the seventh set Nadal has dropped in French Open finals, and he set about making sure there would not be an eighth here.
Nadal responded to the challenge by going on an 11-point winning streak and a vintage forehand up the line handed him a 3-0 advantage. Thiem found himself 4-0 down having won just a single point. He at least got on the board in the fifth game but another break gave Nadal the set 6-1.
The momentum was with the dominant Spaniard by now as he continued the charge in the fourth set with a break in the second and sixth games as Thiem’s hopes evaporated fast.
Nadal made yet more history as Thiem fired his return long on his second championship point before sinking into the red stuff in disbelief to keep his iron grip on the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Thiem received a huge ovation as he collected his runner-up trophy, and he said: “It’s very tough right now because I gave everything I had these last two weeks. I love this tournament with all my heart.
“Rafa, well done. Of course I’m very sad to lose but you’re such an amazing champion, such a legend of our sport. It’s amazing 12 times here, it’s unreal, and I will try next year again for sure.”