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Nadal’s Dozen: 12th French Open Comes In Another Final Against Thiem

Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with the trophy after winning the men’s final match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 09 June 2019. Nadal won the French Open title 12th times. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT



By Ricky Dimon


There will most likely never be another clay-court player like Rafael Nadal. But if there is any player to whom the torch would be passed, it is Dominic Thiem.


In a second straight French Open final between those two competitors, there was no proverbial passing of said clay-court torch–not even close. Thiem bagged a set this time after getting clobbered in the 2018 title match, but Nadal still prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Sunday afternoon. The Spaniard triumphed for the 12th time at Roland Garros after three hours and one minute of play.


Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during a break as he plays Dominic Thiem of Austria during their men?s final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 09 June 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALATNadal was a huge favorite, of course, heading into the contest. After all, he was already a 17-time Grand Slam champion competing in his 12th French Open final; this was Thiem’s second-ever major final appearance. It also did not help the underdog that he was taking the court for a fourth consecutive day due to rain delays earlier in the week. That grueling stretch of tennis included a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 semifinal win over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, which did not finish until the early evening on Saturday.


But Thiem was not about to go down without a fight.


Eager to deliver a better performance than what resulted in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 beatdown at Nadal’s hands in last year’s final, the world No. 4 came out blazing. Although he lost the opening set after leading by an early break, Thiem sent a message–to both Nadal and the fans–by showcasing incredible defense and winning more than a few ridiculous baseline rallies.


Improved serving in the second allowed Thiem to snag a set–and deservedly so, too, as he likely would have won the first against just about any other player in the field. The Austrian held without much trouble en route to a 6-5 lead and then broke Nadal from out of nowhere to level the match at a set apiece.


Nadal, though, made sure that the extent of Sunday’s drama would end right then and there.


Dominic Thiem of Austria plays Rafael Nadal of Spain during their men?s final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 09 June 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA“I had a little drop,” Thiem said of his start to the third set, “which is against most of the players not that bad. But he took the chance and stepped right on me…. He was coming out in the third set like a rocket. Full power…. He came out firing.”


Nadal came out with the first four games of the third to completely regain control of the match. The 33-year-old struck 10 winners compared to only two double-faults and did not lose a single point on serve in set three. He worked similar magic in the fourth, seizing a 3-0 lead and thoroughly squashing any hopes his opponent had of a comeback. Thiem at least earned break points in two different games, but he could not convert.


After missing his first championship point, Nadal capitalized on his second chance at 5-1, 40-30 when Thiem sent a return just past the baseline.


With that, the King of Clay is now the Roland Garros champion–in the famous words of the tournament MC when he is introduced for each match–in “deux mille quatre, deux mille cinq, deux mille six, deux mille sept, deux mille huit, deux mille dix, deux mille onze, deux mille deuze, deux mille treize, deux mille quatorze, deux mille dix-sept, deux mille dix-huit, et deux mille dix-neuf.”


“It is incredible,” Nadal assured. “I can’t explain what I have achieved and how I feel. It was a dream to play here for the first time in 2005. I never thought in 2019 I’d still be here. It’s an incredible moment and very special for me.”


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.


Editor’s Note • Ricky picked this in four sets. Good call Ricky. 

And doesn’t Grams follow you on 10sBalls? (LJ)

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