Friday 19 October 2018

Classy Rafa Nadal secures 11th French Open with straight-sets demolition of Dominic Thiem

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates by biting the trophy
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates by biting the trophy

Andy Sims

Rafael Nadal roared to French Open title number 11 with a straight-sets demolition of Dominic Thiem.

The Spaniard continued his extraordinary domination at Roland Garros with a ruthless 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory.

Seventh seed Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the past two years, and he claimed he had a plan to thwart the Spaniard in Paris.

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.

It was hard not to feel sympathy for Thiem, playing in his first grand slam final against a man who simply does not lose this particular battle.

If Thiem is, as he is widely regarded, the second best clay-court player in the world then he probably has a few more of these pummellings to look forward to at least until Nadal, 32, finally calls it a day.

Nadal's incredible record in Paris now reads 86 wins and two defeats. He has won every final he has reached, and in those 11 finals he has dropped just six sets.

As if the task was not daunting enough for Thiem, the early signs were even more ominous. The Austrian won just one of the first nine points as Nadal immediately broke for 2-0.

But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal's first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner.

It was the only blow he landed all afternoon. Thiem withstood a barrage of break points to hold in a marathon sixth game, which he thought he had won at 40-30 when he left a wide ball, only for the umpire to overrule the line judge.

But at 4-5 Thiem's serve let him down badly, handing Nadal three set points. Any hopes of an upset all but disappeared along with the ragged Thiem forehand which sailed way beyond the baseline.

Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training, but the 24-year-old had an even bigger mountain to climb now.

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.

He saved three break points in his first service game but a wayward backhand ensured Nadal took the fourth.

A hold to love showed Thiem had not given up the ghost, however unlikely a repeat of Simona Halep's heroics from the same position a day earlier seemed.

He still occasionally inconvenienced the reigning champion, not least when a deft drop shot brought up a point to break back at 2-4.

That was swatted away with Nadal's double-handed backhand, though, and the second set duly went the way of the favourite.

The only thing that could stop Nadal now was surely an injury. So there was mild concern when Nadal called for the trainer midway through a game, requiring treatment on what looked like cramp in his hand.

It made no difference; he could probably win this with one hand tied behind his back.

The punishment continued, with Thiem by now looking up to his coach and shrugging as another forehand whistled past him.

Two breaks later Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title, and when another Thiem forehand dropped long, his arms were raised in celebration, yet again.

Press Association

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