Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Sport | By Joe Gonzales

Rafael Nadal wins another French Open crown

Rafael Nadal wins another French Open crown

Ten years ago, Nadal was already the King of Clay. Since his first French Open appearance in 2005, Nadal has gone 86-2 with one withdrawal.

A remarkable year ended when the world No 1 completed a career Grand Slam by beating Novak Djokovic at Flushing Meadows.

But he shook off the early nerves and broke back in the third game with forehand victor ― pumping his fists in the direction of coach Gunter Bresnik.

Uncle Toni, no longer his nephew's coach but back in his customary seat on the end of the players' box, two seats down from the current coach, Carlos Moya, summed it up perfectly.

Austria's Dominic Thiem strained every sinew trying to cling on to the 32-year-old Spaniard and at times even gained a precarious foothold in his first Grand Slam final.

"You can't be frustrated if somebody has more money than you, if somebody has a bigger house than you, if somebody has more Grand Slams than you", said Nadal, who will be top seed at Wimbledon.

Thiem started the match quite poorly.

Well, Nadal has answered that question now without too much trouble. Then he struggled to find the court on his opening service game, and handed the Spaniard an easy break.

"But it's time to check how I feel in the next couple of days".

But he could not match Nadal's point-by-point consistency and intensity on Sunday.

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The next few games were an absolute treat for fans of clay court tennis. The losses came against Thiem at Rome in May 2017 and at Madrid last month.

And entering Sunday, there was at least some reason to believe that Thiem could make things interesting in the final. Could Thiem provide us with a classic final?

For an instant, before it became clear that he could continue, the unthinkable seemed possible. In 2013, he was wearing the first incarnation of the RM27, one valued at $690,000.

The first set had taken 57 minutes, in stiflingly humid conditions, but there was to be no let-up for the underdog in the second.

He bagged the second set when Thiem sent a backhand long. Of those 20, the Spaniard only won one by hitting a victor. A wild, misguided forehand sealed his fate, one of 18 unforced errors to Nadal's 12 in the set.

During the men's singles final, Nadal's left hand began to cramp. It clearly impacted his serve moving forward, but not his ground strokes.

Nadal was rampant when he broke early in the second, but Thiem raised his game to force a break point when Nadal served at 4-2 - a game in which the Spaniard was warned for slow play.

Nadal's triumph marks the sixth consecutive Grand Slam won by either him or 20-times major champion Roger Federer. The other three are Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Federer, all of whom have won four each.

Wilander has a point in regard to tennis as a whole, but as far as the 2018 Wimbledon Championships are concerned, Federer's logic is sound, taking the time to get fit for his best tournament at 36 years of age.

But most of what transpired Sunday afternoon was eminently familiar: The distinctive roar of appreciation when the Spanish superstar walked into the stadium, the whirring accompaniment of photographers' motor drives as he tossed the ball skyward, the sense that when he closed out the first set, it was ballgame on center court even though it was best-of-five on paper.

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