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Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, Wins His 11th French Open Title

11 June 2018

Defeating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 at Stade Roland Garros in a two hours and 42 minutes in a one-sided battle, Nadal once again lifted the French Open men's singles crown extending his legacy on Parisian Clay to 11 crowns.

Dominic Thiem remembers sitting in front of a TV to follow along as Rafael Nadal made his Grand Slam final debut and won his first French Open title back in 2005.

Rafael Nadal's stranglehold on the French Open has endured so long and remains so strong that he has even out-lasted his favorite Court Philippe Chatrier stadium and will probably still be winning the title when it gets a roof in 2020.

The 31-year-old now holds 17 Grand Slam titles, just three behind Roger Federer.

Thiem, mixing heavy top-spin and flat groundstrokes and angling balls across the sidelines, saved a break point at 1-2 and two more at 2-3 and there were signs that Nadal was struggling with his timing as he framed several forehands. Previous year he lost in the opening round to Tommy Haas.

In the intense heat of battle, with Nadal seemingly occupying every metre of the tennis court, Thiem was the first to crack.

Federer (9 at Halle, 8 at Basel) and Argentine clay-court legend Guillermo Vilas (8, Buenos Aires) are the male players with the next highest number of titles at a tournament below Grand Slam level.

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Sunday's final will be Nadal's 24th Grand Slam final, putting him second all time. "Bravo. To me it's been still great two weeks". "He played a really good match and he deserved to win today".

Nadal needed five match points in a tense final game, eventually completing the job when Thiem fired a backhand long.

Nadal's win-loss record in Roland Garros finals, which is the best in a Grand Slam final among men in the Open Era, ahead of Sampras (7-0, Wimbledon), Djokovic (6-0, Australian Open) and Borg (6-0, French Open).

Nadal's welling eyes during the trophy ceremony provided a moment of vulnerability after a match that had very few of them, apart from a freaky interlude in the third set when Nadal abruptly stopped mid-service game with a disconcerted expression and left the baseline to request medical attention for a cramping left hand.

Bizarrely, Nadal then halted playing in the fourth game complaining of pain in his left hand and stretching his middle finger. The other three are Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Federer, all of whom have won four each.

Nadal said afterwards that he feared the worst when the cramp struck: 'There was a tough moment in the third set, I was very very scared but that's sport.

He set his jaw and stared off into space, downcast, as the love poured down for Nadal after the match, but managed a smile when Nadal predicted he would win a championship here.

Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, Wins His 11th French Open Title