Rafael Nadal kept his crown for the 11th time at Roland Garros on Sunday, wearing down Austrian challenger, Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-3-6-2 to win another championship in the French capital.
Expectations that Nadal would flounder fizzled out in the first set after Nadal shook off Thiem’s cancellation of his 2-0 lead.
Nadal had broken Thiem’s first game.
But Thiem broke straight back with his second forehand winner of the game flying past a rooted Nadal.
Still with no Hawkeye at Roland Garros, chair umpire incorrectly overruled line call which would have seen Thiem level at 3-3. But the Austrian saved two break points and won the lengthy game anyhow.
Nadal broke to love to clinch the opening set as Thiem undid all of his earlier hard work with a third forehand unforced error of the game into the net.
In the second set, Nadal piled on the pressure at the start, taking his fifth break point of another marathon game as Thiem sent a wild backhand long.
Thiem brought up break point with a perfectly-judged drop shot after Nadal was given a time warning, but the defending champion then won two exchanges at the net and held to move one game from the set.
Nadal won the set 6-3. And also clinched the third 6-2
Nadal’s win at Roland Garros takes his overall Grand Slam trophies to 17, three behind Roger Federer.
Nadal has now matched Margaret Court’s record of 11 titles at a single major — hers all coming at the Australian Open in the 1960s and 70s.
After winning 26 of his 27 matches throughout the European claycourt season and 81 of his last 86 sets on clay there is nothing to suggest Nadal’s domination in Paris will end soon.
Seventh seed Thiem arrived on a sultry Court Philippe Chatrier with three career wins over Nadal, all on clay, and in an absorbing first set lasting an hour showed why — going toe-to-toe in some ferocious rallies.
There was late anxiety for Nadal as the predicted thunderstorms loomed and he needed his left forearm massaged after beginning to suffer from cramp.
“For me it was scary, because I felt that I was not able to move the hand, the finger,” Nadal said.
He also let four match points go at 5-2 but he would not be denied as Thiem went long with a backhand on the fifth.
Nadal threw his arms skywards and turned to his entourage including coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya and his uncle Toni who stood down from his coaching role last year after his nephew worn his 10th French crown.
The tears that welled up when Nadal received the Coupe des Mousquetaires from Australian great Ken Rosewall showed just how much he still cares.
“It’s amazing now, I can’t describe my feelings,” a sweat-soaked Nadal told the crowd.
“It’s not even a dream to win here 11 times, because it’s impossible to think of something like this.”
Thiem was trying to become only the second Austrian Grand Slam champion after Tomas Muster’s 1995 Paris triumph and played his part in the two hour 42 minute tussle but was unable to sustain the high-octane tennis needed to unnerve Nadal.
“What you did and what you are doing is the most outstanding thing an athlete can achieve in sport,” the 24-year-old said.