King of Clay Crowned Again

What you have done – to win this tournament 11 times – is one of the greatest things in sport. Dominic Thiem to Rafael Nadal after the match

Rafa takes his 11th title

By Roger Childs

Dominic Thiem, has beaten Rafael Nadal three times on clay since 2016, but not yesterday.

The legendary Spaniard was ruthless in this year’s Roland Garros final against the Austrian and won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

Nadal has unrivalled skills on clay and backs up his reliable serve with superb ground strokes which are played with relentless power and impeccable placement.

However, perhaps his greatest talent on the orange dust lies in his amazing retrieving. He slides across the clay at tremendous speed and often hits stunning cross-court winners from wide out.

A tight first set

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros champion 2018

Nadal broke Thiem first service to go ahead 2-0, but then the Austrian broke back, and games went with serve to 5-4. Both players were serving strongly and there were many excellent rallies with plenty of great retrievals.

Thiem serving to level at 5-5, missed an easy volley on the first point and then made a series of unforced errors to gift Nadal the vital first set.

The Spaniard again broke Thiem’s first serve in the second set and there was no way back this time. At 4-1 Thiem did serve a brilliant game to love and then had Nadal at 0-30 and again at 30-40. But both times the champion won the crucial points.

A quality match

The score gives the impression of a very one-sided encounter. The champion was at his ruthless best and played more consistently. He was able to win the crucial points when needed and if he sensed he was losing the advantage he slowed the game down by bouncing the ball 15-20 times before serving.

Thiem did serve seven aces to none but Nadal got far more first serves in play

Thiem gave a very good account of himself in his first grand slam final. He matched the champion in power and placement, and served 7 aces to Nadal’s none.

He also scored far more forehand winners, but then in the unforced errors count he was ahead 27-17 half way through the second set. Basically he made more mistakes than the champion.

Nadal’s experience showed in the third set and he powered through 6-2. However Thiem fought to the last and saved four match points in the final game.

It was very good entertainment for the crowd and they warmly applauded the two protagonists throughout. Then when it was over, they rose for the champion who had done what no male tennis player has done before: win eleven Paris grand slams.

Creating history

It’s dream to win eleven times. Rafael Nadal

The legendary, Margaret Court won the Australian Open eleven times, so the Spaniard has equalled that record.

This latest title takes him to 17 on the all time men’s list, just three behind the Swiss maestro, Roger Federer. Incredibly the two men, both in their thirties, have won the last six grand slams.

No-one would have predicted that in late 2016, when both players were out with injuries.

So it’s on to Wimbledon where Federer, who sat out the 2018 clay season, will be back to try and win his eighth grass court title.

However, Nadal in such great form, will be keen to deny him that honour.

 

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