Nadal beats Thiem for 11th French Open title

REUTERSThiem is competing in his first ever Grand Slam tournament final

In claiming a 17th grand slam title to move three short of Roger Federer's mark, Nadal also matched Margaret Court's record of 11 titles at a single major - hers all coming at the Australian Open in the 1960s and 70s.

It was his only appearance before winning the Masters title in Monte Carlo in April, backing that up with victory at the Barcelona Open and another Masters title in Rome.

However, he fell to a third successive straight-set defeat by the Spaniard at the French Open. He aggravated a hip injury with a fall during his first-round match against Donald Young at Queen's Club before he retired injured from his Wimbledon opener two weeks later, hindered by the issue. After Roland Garros, Nadal's win-loss record on clay stands at 415-36.

At 4-4 Nadal hit a second serve that bounced before it reached the net, but he shrugged that off to hold. He took the biggest of big cuts on groundstrokes, his feet leaving the ground as he threw his whole body into them, as if the very outcome - not of any individual point, but the whole shebang - depended on the strength of that one whip of his white racket.

Nadal struck 26 winners to Thiem's 34 yet made only 24 unforced errors to Thiem's 42, with "unforced errors" a relative term in Nadal Roland Garros matches.

"I am sure you will win here in the next couple of years", Nadal told Thiem afterward. For a time, fans could nearly believe that Thiem would present a challenge in this match.

Federer did not participate in this year's French Open, just like last year, to rest and prepare for grass-court season.

Thiem says he is "confident" his first appearance in a Grand Slam final will not be his last.

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Unfortunately, about half an hour later, the answer became a clear and resounding no. But from 4-all in the opening set, Nadal grabbed five games in a row and was in charge. On the first point, he missed a volley-it was not the easiest of volleys, but it was one that a top player should make-and everything snowballed from there.

Unfortunately for him, Thiem began the second set the same way he ended the first.

"So I am not much anxious about the future". One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline, leaving Thiem sagging his shoulders and muttering.

The defending champion was the hot favourite to retain his title and broke early in the first set. While 2-1 up, there was an odd stoppage as the Spaniard seemed to be struggling with hand cramps.

Taking on Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is a whole other challenge. Between the pair, the two all-time greats have now won the last six Slams.

Of the past 53, Nadal has won 17, Federer 16, Djokovic 12, and Murray and Wawrinka three apiece. The other three are Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Federer, all of whom have won four each. As we head into Wimbledon, Federer and Nadal are the tournament's two favorites.

Slow starts have plagued Nadal in several of his matches this fortnight, most notably against 11th-Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals.

Unlike past year - when those first few games realistically settled things - Thiem bounced back, breaking straight away. He clearly isn't. For now, fans just watch and appreciate this unprecedented greatness for as long as they can.

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