TENNIS: Rafael Nadal extends clay command with French Open final flourish

Spain's Rafael Nadal holds the trophy as he celebrates winning the men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Austria's Dominic Thiem in three sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Pic by AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Spain's Rafael Nadal holds the trophy as he celebrates winning the men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Austria's Dominic Thiem in three sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Pic by AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Rafael Nadal saved his best until last as he demolished Dominic Thiem to seal his 11th French Open title.

The 32-year-old continued his extraordinary domination at Roland Garros with a ruthless 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory.

Seventh seed Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the past two years, and he claimed he had a plan to thwart the Spaniard in Paris.

But once a competitive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal’s ‘undecima’ never looked in any doubt.

In fact the only thing to trouble Nadal unduly was a tightening up of his arm midway through the third set.

“I had to be very aggressive, he’s a very difficult opponent,” said Nadal.

“I had a tough moment in the third set when I had a little bit of cramp.

“I was a little bit scared.

“But that is sport. It was very humid and he pushed me to the limit.

“I’m very happy to win the tournament.

“Dominic is a good friend, but I played my best match today, in the final.”

If Thiem is, as he is widely regarded, the second best clay-court player in the world then he probably has a few more of these pummellings to look forward to at least until Nadal finally calls it a day.

Nadal’s incredible record in Paris now reads 86 wins and two defeats. He has won every final he has reached, and in those 11 showpieces he has dropped just six sets.

Nadal is now level with Margaret Court for the record of the most titles at a single grand slam, while his total of 17 overall brings him closer to Roger Federer’s 23.

He is also assured of keeping his number one ranking for good measure.

Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training and the 24-year-old had a mountain to climb in the final.

A gracious Thiem said: “I can still remember being 11 when (Nadal) won here for the first time and I watched on the TV.

“So I never expected one day I would play the final, so I’m really happy.

“I loved the tournament.

“I hope that soon I will get a chance.”