Nadal shows Thiem what it takes to be king

Sports       by Haider Ali | Published

In 2005, the Spaniard defeated the unheralded Mariano Puerta in the final to begin a winning monopoly at Roland Garros.

The scoreline of Nadal's 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Dominic Thiem, which delivered a scarcely believable 11th French Open, might suggest that this match grew easier as it went on.

Nadal, 32, is second behind Federer in the list of all-time Grand Slam titles, three clear of Pete Sampras in third.

The younger challengers struggle to land a punch, and the last six men's Grand Slam titles have now gone in the sequence of Federer-Nadal-Federer-Nadal-Federer-Nadal. At the beginning of 2017, Federer held 17 Slams to Nadal's 14.

The mind-boggling stats only get wilder from there. He cruised through to the final, losing just three sets on his way to the inevitability that is Nadal.

On the other hand, Nadal just won the French Open for the eleventh time. He also lost just one in 2007 and 2012.

Yet Nadal needed all his extraordinary resilience when his left hand locked up early in the third set. He caused a sensation in Rome a year ago by handing the Spaniard the first defeat of his clay season.

"I felt that I was not able to move the hand, the finger", he said.

There were two tricks up Nadal's sleeve in Paris this year.

It's been nearly eerie to watch Nadal have such contrasting fortunes on clay-as we saw on Sunday-compared to on grass, with Wimbledon accounting for his worst record in any major over recent years.

He only dropped one more game as he completed his 86th win at Roland Garros in 2hr 42min.

Nadal's win-loss record at the French Open, his only two losses coming against Swede Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 and against Djokovic in the quarterfinals in 2015.

The eight-year age gap between the two made no apparent difference as the master gave his student the ultimate lesson in front of his adoring audience.

In a rare show of emotion, Nadal looked close to tears as he collected the Coupe des Mousquetaires again after beating Austrian Thiem. The Spaniard is a routine victor at the other clay tournaments on the ATP World Tour. Whether it was at the Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid, or Rome-whether it was his home tournament in Barcelona-Nadal nearly never lost on the Spaniard.

Nadal did not play for more than two months after the Australian Open in January - where he withdrew from his quarter-final against Marin Cilic because of a hip injury.

Federer (9 at Halle, 8 at Basel) and Argentine clay-court legend Guillermo Vilas (8, Buenos Aires) are the male players with the next highest number of titles at a tournament below Grand Slam level.

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