Rafael Nadal clinch his 11th french Open title after defeating Austria’s Dominic Thiem in straight sets at Roland Garros.
One thing that proves indestructible, however, is the aura of Rafael Nadal, which survives every challenge thrown at it, from the advancing years to unexpected attacks of cramp during French Open finals.
The 32-year-old Spaniard admitted that he was ‘very, very scared’ when the middle finger of his left hand seized up on another afternoon of unseasonable humidity in Paris.
He was to shake that off along with everything else, to claim an astonishing 11th French Open title and 17th Grand Slam in total by seeing off his latest challenger, Austria’s Dominic Thiem. The 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory took just under two-and-three-quarter hours.
While his celebration was relatively low-key, the tears flowed when he was presented with the Coupe des Mousquetaires by 83-year-old Australian legend Ken Rosewall who, in a senior moment, said Thiem had been ‘disappointing’ on the day.
His unfiltered remark had some truth to it, but then Thiem is just one of the upcoming generation who are unable to lay a glove on either Nadal or Roger Federer when it most matters.
Between them they have now won 37 Grand Slams (17 and 20), which represents not far off a fifth of those that have been contested since the Open era began 50 years ago.
They have split the last six and it would not be a huge surprise if Federer extended that to seven at Wimbledon in mid-July.
Nothing, of course, lasts forever. Yesterday it emerged that the great Swiss has had his reputed $10million-per-year (£7.5m) clothing endorsement ended by Nike, who also own the RF logo. He is expected to be kitted out by Japanese giants Uniqlo in time for Wimbledon.
Perhaps that is an omen, but for now there is no sign of the pair’s dominance wavering.
Given Nadal’s recent record at SW19, where he has not gone beyond the last 16 since 2011, he will probably be leaving it to his old rival to try to maintain the sequence there. Last night Nadal did not seem convinced that he would take up his place in the Fever Tree Championship at Queen’s Club, which starts a week today.
‘I’ve had a long clay season,’ he said. ‘I will talk to my team about what to do.’
Nadal has missed Queen’s for the last two years.
Jarring to the knees is his persistent problem on grass, but when it comes to the red dirt nobody does it better. It should be said that nobody does it louder or at a slower pace, either.
The world No 7 battled hard against Nadal but missed the chance to break his serve as the Spaniard turned on the style.
A jammed-packed crowd turned out to see Nadal win his record-extending 11th French Open title on a sunny day in Paris.
Nadal hits a backhand with venom as he turned up the heat after Thiem staged a mini-fightback in the second set
Nadal hits a backhand with venom as he turned up the heat after Thiem staged a mini-fightback in the second set.
RAFAEL NADAL’S LIFETIME RECORD AT FRENCH OPEN
Wins – 86
Defeats – 2.
The Spaniard grunted his way through this tournament and, while that practice continues to be tolerated, the leeway he is given on time taken between points is ridiculous.
Very rarely did he stay within the stated 25-second limit, often going over 30, and he was lucky to benefit from the weak umpiring of Damien Dumusois.
Not until the seventh game of the second set was he given an official warning, permitted to do things in his own sweet time just the way he likes it. It is one of the less obvious ways he exerts his undiminished aura and Thiem did not complain. Nadal’s hold over players makes it possible that he could make up the three-major title deficit with Federer.
The biggest threat on Sunday was the sudden outbreak of cramp when serving at 2-1 up in the third set when, again, he was lucky to be permitted to stop in mid-game for treatment for what was, essentially, a loss of physical condition brought on by tension and his acute sweating.
It turned out to be a false alarm, but his anxiety was clear in a rare exchange with his crowded support box. He managed to serve out the game and Thiem was unable to turn the screw, as he found out just keeping the ball in court was not enough.
‘For a couple of minutes I couldn’t control my finger but it got better,’ said Nadal.
The main court at Roland Garros is due to have a roof put on it by 2021 and will look very different by next year. But it is highly possible it will host a very familiar outcome in the men’s singles.