Tue, Jun 11, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Nadal claims 12th French Open title

KING ON CLAY:Rafael Nadal improved his Paris record to an astonishing 93 wins and just two losses, and he is two titles behind Roger Federer’s record of 20 majors

AFP, PARIS

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns to Dominic Thiem of Austria in the French Open men’s singles final at Roland Garros in Paris on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Rafael Nadal on Sunday swept to an historic 12th Roland Garros title and 18th Grand Slam crown with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Austria’s Dominic Thiem.

The 33-year-old became the first player, man or woman, to win the same Grand Slam 12 times after seeing off a brave challenge from a weary Thiem in a repeat of last year’s final.

Nadal is now just two behind Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 majors and three ahead of Novak Djokovic, who was knocked out by Thiem in the semi-finals.

The world No. 2 also took his Paris record to an astonishing 93 wins and just two losses having previously won the title from 2005 to 2008, 2010 to 2014, 2017 and last year.

“I want to say congratulations to Dominic. I feel sorry as he deserves to win it as well, but he has every chance in the future,” Nadal said. “He has unbelievable talent for the sport and I want to encourage him for the future. It’s a dream to win again, an incredible moment. When I first played here in 2005 I never thought I would be still playing here in 2019. It’s very special for me.”

The triumph confirmed the “Big Three” stranglehold on the Grand Slams having shared the past 10 between them.

It also gave Nadal an 82nd career title and 950th match win.

“It’s very tough. I gave everything these last two weeks,” said Thiem, who had seven fewer winners and seven more unforced errors in the final. “Rafa, well done. You are an amazing champion and a legend in our sport. I am happy that you are playing. To win 12 times, it’s unreal. I will try again, for sure.”

Thiem would have felt confident going into the final having beaten Nadal on clay on his way to the title in Barcelona in April, but with the exception of defeats to Robin Soderling in 2009 and Djokovic in 2016, the outcome of this year’s tournament was brutally familiar.

“I am sorry as you are one of the best examples on tour,” Nadal said of Thiem. “You are a hard worker, always have a smile on your face and are a good person. That’s the most important thing.”

“Thanks for being a great inspiration for me and small kids around the world,” he said. “If I wanted to lose to someone it would be you because you deserve it. Well done and keep going — you will win this for sure.”

In a 53-minute first set of brutal hitting and raw physicality, it was Thiem who broke first for a 3-2 lead, but the 25-year-old’s joy was short-lived as Nadal retrieved the break in the sixth game before racing away with the next three games to pocket the opener.

Thiem, who had defeated his opponent four times on clay in his career, failed to claim a single point off Nadal’s first five service games of the second set, but the Austrian pushed and pushed, forced Nadal into three rushed ground strokes and, from nowhere, broke to take the second set.

Nadal was riled by the insult.

He swept the first 10 points of the third set, carving out a double break for 3-0, before sweeping to a third break for the set.

Thiem had played four successive days to reach the final and the toll was slowly telling.

He wasted break points in the first and third games of the fourth set and Nadal pounced to stretch his lead to 3-0.

That was soon 5-1 and Nadal took the title on a second match point when Thiem fired a return long.

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