“Of course I would love to have 20, like Roger, in the future – or even more”, Nadal said Sunday evening after beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the final at Roland Garros, “but being honest, (it’s) something that is not in my mind”.
He saved another two in the 11-minute sixth game, a performance cheered by the crowd who briefly became more animated when glum-looking French football icon Zinedine Zidane was spotted in the stadium. “Actually, when he won here the first four or five times, I was always watching it”. I had a long and mentally tough clay court season, of course, because I played nearly all the matches possible after coming from an injury. Thiem did not wind up with the trophy he really wanted.
“What you did and what you are doing is the most outstanding thing an athlete can achieve in sport”, the 24-year-old said.
“And I have learned in those 12 months that if you don’t give up you’re able to do anything. So at the end, it’s not the best day”.
We picked up a victor in Friday’s semi-final with Rafa Nadal comprehensively thrashing Juan Martin Del Potro, to cover the -6.5 game handicap easily.
With the two heavy favourites in the semi-finals winning, we have the final that most people during the latter stages would have wanted, Nadal v Thiem, and before I discuss the data in detail, I wanted to talk about their previous meetings a little more.
Nadal will look to capture his 18th Grand Slam title next month at Wimbledon. “I’m just glad I’m not playing today”, said Rosewall in a nod to the raw power of Nadal. Of those 86 victories, 78 have come when Nadal has won the first set, after which he has never lost a match on Parisian clay.
And entering Sunday, there was at least some reason to believe that Thiem could make things interesting in the final. Clamorous news! Roger Federer could leave Nike for the first time in more than two decades!
Play has since resumed and Nadal now leads 4-2 in the third set. Frustrated ThiemNadal, however, turned the screw in the 10th game and Thiem seemed to grow nervous, sending a forehand long to hand his opponent the opening set. He pounded huge serves that topped 135 miles per hour (220 kph) – about 25 miles per hour (40 kph) better than Nadal’s fastest – and translated into seven aces but also had five double-faults. Whatever the issue was, Thiem could not earn the break back-giving up another one while serving down 4-2-and Nadal took the third set and the title. “It was just awful misses”, said Thiem. “And it was, for sure, not the turning point”.
Although Thiem dropped serve early in the second with another backhand error, there was still fight him, though.
Certainly, Nadal played a role.
Nadal added Wimbledon crowns in 2008 and 2010, an Australian Open title in 2009 and completed the career Grand Slam in 2010 by defeating Djokovic in the US Open final, becoming the youngest in the Open era (since 1967) to complete the four-event career sweep.