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Nadal still untouchable with 11th French crown

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Rafael Nadal plays a forehand during the men's singles final against Dominic Thiem at the 2018 French Open on Sunday in Paris. Photo: VCG

Playing the King of Clay at the French Open is akin to scaling Mont Blanc without ropes and even an intrepid adventurer from Europe's Alpine heartland found it a peak too steep as ­Rafael Nadal stormed to an 11th title on Sunday. Austria's Dominic Thiem strained every sinew trying to cling on to the 32-year-old Spaniard and at times even gained a precarious foothold in his first Grand Slam final.

But it ultimately proved a futile mission as, just like in all but two of Nadal's previous 87 matches here, the relentless Spaniard proved insurmountable, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

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 1970s.

After winning 26 of his 27 matches throughout the European clay-court season and 81 of his last 86 sets on clay, there is nothing to suggest Nadal's domination in Paris will end soon.

Seventh seed Thiem arrived on a sultry Court Philippe Chatrier with three career wins over Nadal, all on clay, and in an absorbing first set lasting an hour showed why - going toe-to-toe in some ferocious rallies.

But from the moment Nadal broke serve in the 10th game to win the opening set, Thiem's belief ebbed away.

There was late anxiety for Nadal as the predicted thunderstorms loomed and he needed his left forearm massaged ­after beginning to suffer from cramp. He also let four match points go at 5-2 but would not be denied as Thiem went long with a backhand on the fifth.

Nadal threw his arms skywards and turned to his entourage including coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya and his uncle Toni, who stood down from his coaching role last year after his nephew worn his 10th French crown.

The tears that welled up when Nadal received the Coupe des Mousquetaires from Australian great Ken Rosewall showed just how much he still cares.

"It's not even a dream to win here 11 times, because it's impossible to think of something like this," a sweat-soaked Nadal told the crowd.

Thiem was trying to become only the second Austrian Grand Slam champion after Tomas Muster's 1995 Paris triumph and played his part in the two-hour, 42-minute tussle but was unable to sustain the high-octane tennis needed to unnerve Nadal.



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