Awe-inspiring Nadal claims record-extending 11th French Open title

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal described his performance at the French Open a year ago, when he didn't surrender a set, as "perfect".

Even a slight injury scare in the third set did not put off the world No 1 as he stormed to victory.

King of Clay Rafael Nadal said he will have to be at his best to beat Dominic Thiem in Sunday's final at Roland Garros if he is to create more history and claim an 11th title. When a return went long on a fifth match point, Nadal raised his arms in joy. He removed the tape from his left wrist and seemed to take a tablet.

After he was awarded the famous trophy, Nadal burst into tears while posing for pictures and speaking to the packed out Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Nadal. the world's No. 1 player, has 17 career Grand Slam titles, now three behind Roger Federer for most all-time.

Understandably, Thiem looked edgy at the start and he managed to win only one of the first eight points as Nadal, cheered loudly when he walked on court, bristled with intent.

Dominic Thiem is the only man who has gotten the better of him on clay in the last two years.

Despite matching Nadal forehand for forehand, Thiem was undone in the 10th game when three errors handed Nadal the opening set after 52 minutes on court.

Over the best-of-five sets on clay, Nadal improved to 111-2 - it is a figure nearly as imposing as the nearby Eiffel Tower - his lone reverses coming against Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015 at the French Open.

Rafael Nadal, the 10-time champion only stands in the Austrian's path of winning a major in his first ever slam final.

Diego Schwartzman has come closest this fortnight to become the third man to beat Nadal in Paris. He lost the first set, then turned things around after a rain delay. Across the other slow-medium clay venues - Monte Carlo, Barcelona and here - Nadal has utterly schooled Thiem. He won the first six points and broke for 2-0. "I am sure you'll win here in the next couple of years".

The problem for the 24-year-old was that his serve wasn't co-operating.

Another feature was his ridiculously slow play when serving, nearly always over the 25-second limit and sometimes going well into the thirties.

By contrast, Thiem was competing in his maiden major final and although he matched his illustrious opponent for large parts of the opening set, he crumbled at the crunch and never really regained his poise. He dropped serve on a fifth break chance.

His lone opportunity of the set indeed vanished.

The number of consecutive sets won on clay by Nadal, breaking the previous record for most consecutive sets won on a single surface by McEnroe, who won 49 on carpet in 1984.

Yet he just wouldn't be denied.

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