Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Nadal, Thiem ready for tough final showdown

Rafael Nadal Dominic Thiem French Open REUTERSRafael Nadal will take on Dominic Thiem in the final of the French Open today
Cary Erickson | 10 June, 2018, 20:09

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Sunday's French Open final followed a similar pattern as Rafael Nadal once again emerged victorious on the Roland Garros clay, marking his 11th success in the competition over the course of his illustrious career.

If there were any reason for a bit of intrigue entering Sunday's match, it was this: Thiem is the only person to beat Nadal on red clay over the past two seasons, doing so at Rome in May 2017 and at Madrid last month.

Dominic Thiem was vying for his first Grand Slam title on Sunday.

Nadal had a brief moment of weakness in the first set, when the 24-year-old Austrian broke him in the third game. Since then, the Spaniard has been imperious.

A glimmer of hope was when the middle finger on his left hand started to cramp in the middle of the fourth game, causing him to take a salt tablet and have the strapping on his forearm to be removed, which is there to stop the sweat pouring onto his palms.

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Nadal retained the momentum in the second set, breaking his opponent in the second game and holding out to edge closer to yet another title at Roland Garros.

No stranger to rewriting the record books along with his friendly rival, Roger Federer, here is another feat for the Spaniard: He joined Margaret Court in becoming the only tennis players in history to win the same grand slam 11 times.

Nadal slides across the clay.

But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal's first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner. Thiem making unforced errors. After guzzling water during his visit from the doctor, Nadal was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.

That was swatted away with Nadal's double-handed backhand, though, and the second set duly went the way of the favourite.