French Open final 2018: Nadal wins 11th Roland Garros title
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem put up a decent scrap on Philippe Chatrier but was powerless to prevent the King of Clay from being crowned in Paris again.
Only men's eight players in the history of tennis have won 10 Grand Slams or more. On Sunday in Paris, world number one and defending champion Rafa Nadal landed his 11th French Open title to take his tally of majors to 17 overall, the second-highest haul in the history of the sport behind Roger Federer.
Nadal also became only the second player to win the same Grand Slam 11 times and the first in the Open Era after Margaret Court claimed 11 Australian Open victories between 1960 and 1973.
Nadal had never lost a set in the French Open final and although Dominic Thiem briefly threatened to become the first player to achieve the feat, it was largely plain sailing for the Spaniard, who eventually prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
The defending champion broke to love in the opening game and consolidated that on his serve but the seventh seed fought back to 2-2 and then both players engaged in some blistering rallies as the final took on the appearance of a battle on equal terms.
Thiem errors cost the seventh seed against Nadal
A 13-minute duel in game six of the opening set suggested a long afternoon on Philippe Chatrier but although Thiem held off Nadal’s sustained barrage, the world number one struck again in the ninth to break for 5-4. It was that point that the key difference between the two protagonists became apparent as Thiem reeled off a string of errors to send Nadal back to his chair a set up.
Nadal broke again in the second game of the second set despite furious resistance from the world number eight and from there the outcome rarely looked in doubt. Flashes of Thiem’s clay court brilliance were interwoven with a string of unforced errors, particularly off the Austrian’s graceful backhand side, and Nadal duly turned the screw with a series of stinging forehands and increasing forays into the net, where he won 16 of 18 points.
Thiem’s unforced error count reached 42 by the end of the match and the result could have been even more convincing in Nadal’s favour but for some extraordinary resilience from his opponent, who saved 12 break point opportunities over the course of the match.
Nadal injury scare
But as Nadal wound up the second and broke Thiem in the third game of the third set, the inevitable drew closer with every error from the seventh seed as the defending champion ruthlessly exploited his advantage. There was a brief scare for the Spaniard and his team as the ATP physio made an appearance with Nadal serving at 2-1 and 30-0 up but what appeared to be a possible recurrence of his wrist injury was cramp in a finger and he returned to the baseline to serve out for 3-1, although rather tentatively as he tested his left hand.
Another break took Nadal to 5-2 and although Thiem threw up a desperate attempt to prolong the match, saving three match points from 40-0 down and another as Nadal struggled to serve out the game, it was only fitting that a Thiem shot landing just beyond the baseline rather than a rasping Nadal winner handed the Spaniard victory in two hours and 42 minutes.
The Austrian was obliged to go for his shots - there is no other way around Nadal on clay – but accuracy was an issue all afternoon for a player in his first Grand Slam final facing one in his 24th.