Rafael Nadal clinches 11th French Open


That was part of a five-game run that sent Nadal on his way.

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. Nadal, however, soon recovered to complete the match. But on Sunday, the king of clay chose to wield it like a weapon, and instead of handing the torch over, used it to singe the young pretender. The Spaniard would save just one breakpoint on his way to the business end of the set, where Thiem - serving 5-4 down - reeled off four enforced errors in a row to hand Nadal the set.

Suffered his first French Open loss in 2009 to Sweden's Robin Soderling in the fourth round. In 2015, he was defeated by a seemingly-unstoppable Novak Djokovic.

"Physically, I enjoyed (it) more watching him on the couch, " Thiem said with a smile.

World number one Rafael Nadal claimed his eleventh title at Roland Garros, defeating Dominic Thiem in straight sets on Sunday. But it all starts over again at Roland Garros.

The German, however, struggled through three successive five-set matches before being trounced by Dominic Thiem. The Austrian had trouble with the Nadal serve, and he gave up an easy hold. Thiem was not easily cowed down by the Nadal forehand, nor the Popeye-bicep it finished off on.

Nadal, 32, has won six major titles on grass and hardcourts, but clay is his natural element, like water for Michael Phelps or snow for Marcel Hirscher.

Nadal's 17th major title inevitably brought questions about his ultimate career goals.

Yet Nadal also knows he could be a threat after playing impressively a year ago before falling in the last 16, losing a classic tussle against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller. For a time, fans could nearly believe that Thiem would present a challenge in this match. Could Thiem provide us with a classic final?

LONDON ENGLAND- JULY 08 Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates during the Men's Singles Semi Final match against Milos Raonic of Canada on day eleven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 8
Swoosh and the Swiss Federer has spent best part of 20 years with Nike

For an instant, before it became clear that he could continue, the unthinkable seemed possible. He knew he had to play his best game.

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.

Unfortunately for him, Thiem began the second set the same way he ended the first.

"I am not much anxious about the future".

Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the title at Roland Garros. One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline, leaving Thiem sagging his shoulders and muttering.

Once he was a set up, Nadal continued the pummel Thiem with his heavy groundstrokes.

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 finally calls it a day. It clearly impacted his serve moving forward, but not his ground strokes. At one point finally, Thiem tried going around the post in the penultimate game, just after a Nadal cross-court backhand return seared so close over the net cord that it made the Parisians murmur. At the beginning of 2017, Federer held 17 Slams to Nadal's 14.

Stan Wawrinka, it should not be forgotten, also has three Slams although his name is usually an absentee when it comes to such number-crunching. He clearly isn't. For now, fans just watch and appreciate this unprecedented greatness for as long as they can.