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Rafael Nadal lifts record 11th French Open title

11 June 2018
Rafael Nadal lifts record 11th French Open title

Rafael Nadal's remarkable Roland Garros reign continued as the world number one clinched an 11th French Open title with a straight-sets win over Dominic Thiem on Sunday.

Taking on Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is a whole other challenge.

Over the best-of-five sets on clay, Nadal improved to 111-2 - it is a figure nearly as imposing as the nearby Eiffel Tower - his lone reverses coming against Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015 at the French Open.

Up in the stands, Nadal's uncle Toni, his former coach, was nervous, too, "because I thought maybe we can have a problem", he said. He is, however, the second player overall to win a major 11 times after Australia's Margaret Court, who won four of her 11 Australian Open titles after the start of the Open Era in 1968.

Why? Nadal was 95-0 when capturing the opener on clay in the best of five format.

Grass hasn't tended to favour Nadal in recent years, and the return of a fit-again Roger Federer means he'll likely relinquish favourite status in England.

If there was a scare for Nadal it was an outbreak of cramp in his left hand in the third set, which he managed to shake off, like everything else this fortnight.

At 2-1 in the fourth set, Nadal stopped serving during a game because he couldn't straighten his left middle finger.

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.

Rafael Nadal insists that he has no desire to become locked into an arms race with Roger Federer to surpass his great rival's 20 Grand Slam titles.

The Austrian - competing in his first grand slam final after a pair of semifinal showings in Paris - needed to win the first set to have any realistic opportunity of ending Nadal's reign.

At least Thiem has in the past found the key to unravelling the Nadal clay court enigma. "Of course, I have ambition, I have passion for what I am doing, but I never have been insane about all this kind of stuff", Nadal told a news conference.

On a humid afternoon before a crowd peppered with celebrities from Zinedine Zidane to Hugh Grant he hardly showed signs of weakness, breaking immediately as his opponent got to grips with being in what was his first Grand Slam final.

Thiem put up a good fight in his opening service game of the third set, saving four breakpoints.

But ultimately, a rested Federer is an irrepressible force at Wimbledon, just as Nadal is at Roland-Garros. The two stars have combined to win the past six Slams. Thiem also made 37 forced errors to Nadal's 21.

Certainly, Nadal played a role.