Roger Federer is left looking over his shoulder after Rafael Nadal took an astounding twelfth French Open title on Sunday at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard closed to within two Grand Slam victories of the 37-year-old Swiss when he saw off the game challenge of Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in three hours and one minute of ferocious combat at Roland Garros.
At 33 Nadal now has 18 Majors to Federer’s 20, and his most reliable supply of these precious commodities shows no sign of slowing up.
The king of Court Philippe-Chatrier was at his most unforgiving, bar one slip late in the second set when Thiem had the impudence to make it less than a cakewalk.
The Austrian deserves great credit for his efforts this fortnight, and can at least say that this was an improvement on last year’s final, when he managed only nine games.
But Nadal remains peerless, and the memory of some wobbly performances early in the clay court season, such as losing in the semi-finals of his Monte Carlo citadel, seems a long time ago.
Nadal said: ‘Congrats to Dominic, I feel sorry because he deserves it, I really hope he wins in future. He has unbelievable intensity and passion for this sport. I want to encourage him.
‘It’s an unbelievable moment for me, I can’t explain it. For me it was a dream to play the first time in 2005.
‘I never thought back then that in 2019 I would still be here so it’s very special for me.’
MEN’S GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLES
20 – Roger Federer
18 – Rafael Nadal
15 – Novak Djokovic
14 – Pete Sampras
12 – Roy Emerson
11 – Bjorn Borg
It is hard to believe that any tennis match has begun with the brutal intensity of this one, both players hitting the daylights out of the ball for the first seven games that took 44 minutes to complete.
Thiem was showing no ill effects of his drawn out semi-final against Novak Djokovic, at least until the eighth game when his level discernibly went down for a couple of games, the kind of thing that is simply fatal on this court above any other.
Shortening the points in the second set, the Austrian quickly recovered, and the exchanges soon had rival parts of the crowd chanting the names of the two players.
To his credit he kept fighting but was powerless to resist after he got broken for a second time, and Nadal fell to the clay on his back when the last blow was inflicted.