By Ros Satar, in Paris

  • Rafael Nadal [1] def. Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-3 6-2
  • Emotions run high as he continues his domination on the European clay
PARIS, FRANCE – Rafael Nadal closed the book on Roland Garros 2018 by winning an astonishing 11th title, a 17th overall Slam but insists chasing Roger Federer’s 20 titles is not on his mind.

 

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Rafael Nadal [1] def. Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-3 6-2

The scene was set for either a triumphant re-throning of the King of Clay Rafael Nadal, or a dethroning, with the crown prince Dominic Thiem stepping up to claim his place at the pinnacle of the clay court season.

It was an aggressive start by Nadal who ripped through a love service game before breaking Thiem in his first game in a Grand Slam final. But far from being overwhelmed, Thiem broke straight back and has the strength to fend off three ore break points in the next couple of games as the intensity rose up a couple of notches for both players.

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It must have been a bitter pill to have played out a slippy game to be broken to love for Nadal to take the first set. It was vital to maybe avoid a three-set whitewash as their other Roland Garros encounters had gone to at least hang in the game, so it was a chastening lesson for Thiem to learn.

Things did not look good at the start of the second set, with Thiem again being broken early after fending off four break points and finally succumbing to the fifth. Thiem managed to get onto the board but was made to work so hard just to keep it to a single break deficit, but could make no inroads.

Even when Nadal had issues with his finger and forearm that caused him to stop playing mid game and call the trainer on, Thiem could not capitalise on Nadal’s discomfort to maybe try and claim a set off the man.

With the finish line in sight, it took Nadal a nervy four match-points to close out the win, and then the emotions same full bore as he received the trophy – unusually even more so than when he won the famed La Decima and the organisers presented his Toni Nadal with a special version of the trophy too as he would part company with his nephew to focus on his academy.

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Perhaps unusually, Ken Rosewall, who was presenting the trophy, chose to criticiser Thiem on his major debut, saying on court: (h/t @ReemAbulleil)

 

Thiem, who said on court he had watched Nadal win his first Roland Garros title when he was just 11, said:

“When he won here the first time, actually when he won here the first four or five times, I was always watching it. Of course it’s really a great thing that I made my way and that I was competing in a final against him.

“It’s a really great thing, honestly, but still I’m disappointed, of course. It was a final. I really wanted to win. I gave everything I had, and I’m the loser of today. So at the end, it’s not the best day.

“I’m confident that this was not my last Grand Slam finals, and that’s my biggest goal, to get into the next one and then to do it better than today.”

Nadal find himself now just three slams away from Roger Federer, who similarly let his emotions get the better of him – perhaps because at this stage of their careers, they must contemplate their chances of dominating as much as they did at the peak of their careers as coming to a close.

Nadal explained: “Personally for me is amazing. I’m very emotional, no? Came back from this almost five months without playing a full tournament since Shanghai last year. First official event was in — well, the Davis Cup, but only two matches, and then Monte-Carlo. So a lot of months with problems.

“So coming back and have the chance to win in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, and now especially here, yeah, it’s very emotional for me. Yeah, was a very special moment and received, you know, that minute or two minutes of the crowd supporting, that feeling in that moment was difficult to describe it. Very emotional for me.”

In terms of catching Federer – Nadal is the defending US Open champion, will of course be a defending champion once more at Roland Garros, and let’s not forget he has also been handy on the grass. However, none of this is on his mind,

“Let me enjoy this title. I can’t be always thinking of more. Of course, I have ambition, of course. I have passion for what I am doing. But I never have been crazy about all this kind of stuff. No, you can’t be frustrated always if somebody have more money than you, if somebody have a bigger house than you, if somebody have more Grand Slams than you. You can’t live with that feeling, no? You have to do your way.

“Because if you are looking next to you, you can be frustrated thinking that people have more things than you in general terms. I am not this kind of person. I happy that other people have things, and I am very satisfied, and I feel very lucky with all the things that happened it me.

“Of course I would love to have 20 like Roger in the future or even more, but being honest, is something that is not in my mind. What is in my mind now is I won a very important title for me.”

Nadal is next scheduled to play at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club London, which takes place between 18-24 June.

 

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