2018 French Open: Nadal clinches 11th Roland Garros title with dominant win over Thiem

2018 French Open: Nadal clinches 11th Roland Garros title with dominant win over Thiem

The Spaniard suffered the loss of just nine games to extend his record in Paris and claim his 17th Grand Slam title overall.

John Lupo

Rafael Nadal is once again the champion at the French Open, defeating seventh seed Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the final. The Spaniard captured his 11th title at Roland Garros, the third tournament he has won that many times (an ATP record) and his 17th major title overall in 2 hours, 42 minutes.

A close beginning that saw the two players split the first eight games gave way to Nadal taking 14 of the final 19 games. The Spaniard has taken the title in Paris for the third time only losing one set through the entire tournament while improving his overall record to 86-2 on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros.


Nadal battles through first set

Thiem was in his first Grand Slam final and the nerves showed, losing eight of the first nine points. After an opening hold by Nadal, the Austrian quickly found himself down 15-30 and with the court at his mercy, missed an easy backhand to bring up two break points, the Spaniard needing only one to convert for a 2-0 lead.

A rare loose game by the ten-time champion put the set back on serve and Thiem leveled the set after a battling hold that saw two aces, a double fault and a drop shot. Both players held through the next five games, the seventh seed surviving through a 13 minute hold in that span.

The tenth game proved to be critical as Thiem, serving to stay in the set, began with a volley error followed by a missed groundstroke set up 0-30. Whacking a forehand long brought up triple set point and another error from that wing gave the top seed the opening set and realistically sank Thiem's chances.


Quick start gives ten-time champion a two-set lead

The effects of that missed volley weighed on Thiem, who had gone toe-to-toe with Nadal until that point. Struggling to get his first serve in, he quickly fell behind 0-30 in the second game of the second set. Two points later, a superior volley from the Spaniard brought up two break points at 15-40.

The seventh seed showed some fight, staving off both chances and eventually a third, but after double-faulting to set up a fourth chance, the weight of the moment and opponent proved to be too much as the ten-time champion broke for a 2-0 lead.

The first Austrian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Thomas Muster had a slight opening in the fifth game, reaching 0-30 on Nadal's serve, but he scrambled out of the game with some timely serving and an error from Thiem to take a 4-1 lead, the seventh seed miles away now.

His serve now dialed in, Thiem was looking for any opening to create even the tiniest chance to spin the match back to even and again he was in with an opportunity in the seventh game at 30-40, but Nadal hasn't recorded 85 victories at Roland Garros for nothing.

A backhand winner brings the game back to deuce and eventually a hold makes it 5-2. Two games later, the Spaniard was two sets to the good after the Austrian looped a groundstroke into the tramlines.


Nadal breezes to straight sets win, 17th Slam title

The third set felt like a mere inevitability, Thiem struggling in every way at this point and the third set almost started in the worst possible fashion for the seventh seed, Nadal holding four break points in the opening game before the Austrian dug deep once more to hold. 

The third game saw Thiem race out to a 30-0 lead before fending off a break point, but the pressure was becoming too much and soon after, two more errors gave Nadal the break and a 2-1 lead, the title all but sealed now.

A slight scare occurred in the following game as the 16-time major winner retreats to his chair at 30-0 up showing his fingers to the chair umpire. It looks like Nadal's fingers are cramping. He tries to take off the plasters masking his blisters. His wrist bandaging is removed and his trainer assists with some light massaging. 

It didn't seem to affect Nadal following the resumption of play, holding for a 3-1 lead, but he would call the trainer on the ensuing changeover. With thunder in the background and the threat of rain, the Spaniard raced to another quick hold for a 4-2 lead.

All of the concerns were alleviated in the very next game as a double-fault and forehand error give Nadal a 0-30 lead. An ace pulls back one point, but Thiem was faced with two break points after he was unable to retrieve a drop shot. He only needs one as the Spaniard strikes a stupendous service return at such an angle that while Thiem gets his racket head on, he can't hit round the post and back in.

Serving for the championship, Nadal built up a 40-0 lead, but Thiem would not go quietly. He saved all three championship points and was bossing the next point before carelessly committing his 41st unforced error to give the Spaniard a fourth opportunity to close it out, not taken but on his fifth chance the Austrian finally buckles, one last error long sealing Nadal's record-extending 11th Roland Garros title.


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