‘La Duodécima’ is the cry as Nadal writes yet more French Open history
Rafael Nadal maintained his French Open dominance this weekend as he produced another top display to claim a record-extending 12th Roland Garros crown. Alex Grant reports.
Nadal was forced to dig deep and show once more why he is the King of the Parisian dirt withstanding a fierce challenge from world number four Dominic Thiem to win 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 in Sunday’s showpiece event.
Nadal came into the match unbeaten in French Open finals having beaten Thiem at the same stage last year but despite this it was the Austrian, buoyed by a stunning semi-final victory over world number one Novak Djokovic just a day previous, who drew first blood breaking Nadal in the fifth game of the opening set to lead 3-2. Not to be deterred Nadal broke back immediately winning four straight games to take the set 6-3 after 53 minutes of thrilling tennis.
The second set in comparison was a relatively edgy affair with neither player giving an inch with the opening 11 games all going the way of the server but at 6-5, with a tiebreak seemingly on the horizon, two unexpected and uncharacteristic errors off the racquet of the great Spaniard gifted Thiem the break and with it a route back into the contest.
It was only the seventh set Nadal has dropped in a French Open final and he was not about to give away an eighth.
Taking a toilet break to recompose himself, Nadal came out like a man on a mission going on an 11-point win streak racing to a 3-0, double break, lead and despite Thiem getting a game on the board for 4-1, the 25-year-old could do little to halt Nadal’s momentum as he held serve before breaking Thiem once more to wrap up the third set moving himself just one set away from history.
The momentum was by now completely with the 33-year-old with breaks in the second and sixth games of the fourth set leaving Nadal serving for victory, at 5-1, as Thiem saw any hopes he had of turning the match around quickly evaporate.
Victory and yet more French Open history was confirmed as Thiem fired a return long on Nadal’s second championship point as the Spaniard collapsed to the dirt with his arms outstretched with a 12th bite of the famous Coupe des Mousquetaires secured.
For Nadal victory means he becomes the first man or woman in the history of the sport to win the same Grand Slam event 12 times – moving clear of the 11 Australian Open crowns won by Margaret Court between 1960 and 1973. An 18th career grand slam for Nadal overall also sees him move just two behind the record 20 of his great rival and friend Roger Federer.
Speaking directly following the match the Spaniard was quick to congratulate his opponent on another great tournament whilst expressing his hope that Thiem can one day win too:
“The first thing I want to say is congrats to Dominic and sorry because he deserves it too.”
“I really hope he will get the chance to win in the future because he has a big passion for the sport and he’s a hard worker and I want to encourage him.”
Nadal was also keen to express his overwhelming joy at his momentous victory and thank all who have helped him achieve it stating:
“I can’t explain what I’ve achieved and how I feel. It’s a dream. To play 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.”
“I thank all the people who support me, my family, my team for their great support, which I need, which is necessary for me.”
For Thiem it was yet more French Open final heartbreak but the Austrian was, however, keen to congratulate his opponent on a top performance stating:
“After those two sets, I dropped a little bit my level. Rafa, who won this tournament 12 times, he stepped on me. Afterwards, it got really tough for me. He played outstanding today, because especially in the first two sets I played very good tennis. What he was performing I think is unbelievable, really.”
“There has to be a reason why he’s that successful. I mean, he won 18 Grand Slams, which is a big number, which is only two less than Roger. So definitely he’s one of the greatest of all time. Today, I saw why.”
For both men attention will now turn to the year’s third Grand Slam on the grass at Wimbledon and Nadal sees no reason why he can’t add a third Wimbledon crown to his collection commenting:
“The last two years that I played in Wimbledon, I felt close again. Even if the first year was that match against Müller, I played great tennis there too.”
“I was very close to being in the quarter-finals, and last year I was one point away from that final.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Nadal’s coach & former world number one tennis player Carlos Moyà who, after describing his player’s 12th Roland Garros title as “beyond this world”, commented regarding Wimbledon:
“Of course, why not?”
“He lost in the semi-final last year playing a great match. He’s too good to not be a contender in every tournament he plays.”
Wimbledon will get underway at the All England Club on July 1st.