Rafael Nadal completed a triumphant march to a record 12th French Open trophy on Sunday, overwhelming Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 6-1.
Spain’s king of clay – watched by former Spanish king Juan Carlos in the VIP box – rose to the big occasion on the Chatrier show court, taking his revenge after losing to his Austrian fourth-seeded rival in a Barcelona semi-final two months ago.
ATP No. 2 Nadal repeated his victory over Thiem from a year ago as he added another line to the tennis record books.
“This is incredible, I cannot explain it,” Nadal said. “This sensation is a dream. It’s a very special moment for me.
“I feel sorry for beating Dominic, he’s a hard worker with intensity and passion.”
“He deserves to win here. I’m sure he will have another chance in the future.”
Nadal wrapped up victory serving for the match fifth set; Thiem sent a backhand wide for two match points.
Nadal fired long on the first, but the Austrian put a return over the baseline on the second to fall after three hours.
Thiem accepted his fate at the hands of the clay virtuoso.
“It’s tough right now, Rafa just played amazing again.”
“I played with all of my heart, what he does is just unreal. I’m sad to lose, but Rafa’s a great champion.
“I’ll try next year for sure to try and win,” said the two-time finalist in Paris. “I’m looking forward to it already.”
Of his 24 career Grand Slam finals Nadal has won every one he has played at Roland Garros; he now owns 60 clay trophies and stands 18-8 in Grand Slam finals.
The Spaniard’s victory marked the tenth straight major won by a member of the Big 3 (Nadal, Djokovic and Federer). The last time an “outsider” claimed a grand Slam trophy was here in 2016 when Swiss Stan Wawrinka lifted the title.
The Spaniard now stands 9-4 over Thiem in their career series.
Nadal is the first player in history to win 12 singles titles at any Grand Slam. he is now threatening Federer’s record Grand Slam singles haul of 20 titles.
The 33-year-year-old began the final on a cloudy afternoon as he went to work wearing down Thiem, who needed two days due to poor weather to finish off his five-set semi-final win over Novak Djokovic and who came to the final without a rest day.
Nadal played his own semi-final on Thursday beating Roger Federer, and enjoying two days of rest.
Thiem briefly threatened by winning the second set but was unable to capitalise on his momentum as Nadal against took charge with a sweep of the third 6-1 for a two-sets-to-one lead.
The second seed from Mallorca raced to 4-1 in the fourth set and was unstoppable as he finished off his afternoon’s work.