Tuesday, 02 June, 2020

Rafael Nadal clinches 11th French Open title in ‘Claywalk’

Sports       by Haider Ali | Published Sports by Haider Ali | Published
Cary Erickson | 11 June, 2018, 12:12

The square-shouldered Austrian tried his best to engage with Nadal rather than let Nadal's avalanche of statistics overwhelm him.

In their previous nine meetings, all on clay, the man who took the opening set went on to win the match.

The Spaniard lifted his 17th major title at Roland Garros on Sunday, downing Dominic Thiem in his 11th victory in the French capital.

Last year, he lost 15-13 in the fifth set of his last-16 tie against Gilles Muller. But, after showing that he may be onto something with a win over 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round, and a comfortable victory over veteran Fernando Verdasco in the fourth, his inability to execute in big moments against unseeded Marco Cecchinato in the quarterfinals looks to have undone all the good work. Federer had ended Djokovic's 43-match undefeated run in the semi-finals.

And in 2012, he surpassed Borg's record to become the most successful player in French Open history with his seventh crown. The two players were going for heavy, lung-busting shots. Could he shock the world and defeat Nadal at Roland Garros? The Spaniard officially withdrew before the start of his third-round match in 2016. The Austrian had trouble with the Nadal serve, and he gave up an easy hold.

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Nadal's welling eyes during the trophy ceremony provided a moment of vulnerability after a match that had very few of them, apart from a weird interlude in the third set when Nadal abruptly stopped mid-service game with a disconcerted expression and left the baseline to request medical attention for a cramping left hand. Nadal is a huge Madrid fan, and is often seen at games. For a time, fans could nearly believe that Thiem would present a challenge in this match.

Unfortunately, about half an hour later, the answer became a clear and resounding no. While serving down 4-5, Thiem played an absolutely atrocious game.

The only hiccup was Thiem, his challenge on last legs, fighting off the first four championship points on Nadal's serve in the eighth game. Of those 20, the Spaniard only won one by hitting a victor. In his two matches against Nadal at the French Open, Thiem has not been able to win even a set. While 2-1 up, there was an odd stoppage as the Spaniard seemed to be struggling with hand cramps.

For the second year running Federer opted against playing at the French Open to spare his knees, but will be favorite to win Wimbledon next month and re-establish a four Grand Slam gap over Nadal on the list of all-time collectors of major titles. Nadal has now upped his total to 17 with his latest trophy.

The victory saw Federer surpass American legend Pete Sampras becoming the most successful open era male player on grass.