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'It is truly incredible. I cannot explain it'- Nadal reflects on 12th French Open title

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 10 Jun 2019
  • Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem in four sets to win an incredible 12th French Open title on Sunday.
  • Nadal moves up to 18 Grand Slam titles, just two behind Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Laurent Zabulon / ABACAPRESS.COM)

Rafael Nadal described his latest French Open success as ‘truly incredible’, as the great Spaniard secured the Roland Garros title for the 12th time in his career.

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Nadal became the first player- male or female- to win a single Grand Slam title on 12 occasions following a 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory over Austria's Dominic Thiem on Sunday. The Spaniard breaks a tie he previously held with Australia's Margaret Court, who won 11 Australian Open titles.

It marks a successful end to a clay-court season that had begun with so much uncertainty and question marks around his form, and chances of success in Paris.

The 33-year-old opened his clay court campaign with three consecutive semi-final exits, unheard of in his autocratic domination of the surface, thus offering hope to the rest of the tour, but he finished off the clay season in emphatic fashion, winning 12 straight matches, claiming the Rome title, and now Roland Garros.

"It is truly incredible. I cannot explain it," Nadal said after his win. "Being able at this time in my career to get another victory is obviously a great satisfaction and a great happiness”.  
“I thank all the people who support me, my family, my team for their great support.”

Nadal's latest Roland Garros success moves him up to 18 Grand Slam titles, two behind Roger Federer's all-time record of 20. While the Spaniard admits that matching and overtaking Federer’s major haul is a motivation, he says he would still be very satisfied if he doesn’t get there by the end of his career. 

“Being honest, I never complain much, and I never tried to think about, 'Well, I'm going to catch Roger or not'. Being honest, I am not very worried about this stuff,” he said. “You can't be frustrated all the time because the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a bigger TV or better garden. That's not the way that I see life.”  
“If, at the end of my career, I am able to win a couple of more Grand Slams and be closer to Roger, [it] will be unbelievable. If not, for me, still unbelievable”. 
“For me, [to win] Roland Garros, to feel myself enjoying again on court, that's the main thing. Then what can happen in the future, we will see. I am going to try my best to keep enjoying tennis, giving myself chances to compete at the highest level, and we will see what's going on.”

While Nadal is the greatest clay-courter of all time, Dominic Thiem has arguably been the second best player on this surface in the last couple of seasons, and for the first seven games of Sunday's final, both gladiators produced a spell-minding exhibition of clay-court tennis. 

They took full-blooded swings at each other, but at the same time, played with remarkable control and accuracy, with most of the points finishing with either winners or forced errors. There was incredible athleticism and insane defending, especially from Thiem, who transformed into a brick wall that could simply not be passed- while returning fire with fire with his bludgeoning ground strokes. It was both brutal and beautiful at the same time. The only worry at that point was whether they could sustain those levels, and as time has shown, the answer was No.

Thiem powered his way to the first break of the match, finishing off with an overhead on break point to move up 3-2, but Nadal came fighting back in the next, breaking right back with a forehand winner after a concerted attack on the Thiem backhand. 

That set up a run of four straight games for Nadal, as a combination the Spaniard upping the ante and Thiem's level dipping from the heights of the first seven games helped Nadal to the first set.

Given everything he had thrown at Nadal in that opening set, and considering the mental energy he had put into his two-day five-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, it was tough to imagine Thiem recovering from the loss of that first set.

Nadal elevated the quality of his serving in the second set, dropping just two points as he sped through his first five service games, but Thiem did an excellent job of staying with the Spaniard. With the set looking destined for a tie break, the Austrian got his lucky break, as Nadal, out of nowhere threw in an error-strewn service game while serving to stay in the set at 5-6. That was just the second set he had dropped all tournament, and the first in four French Open matches against Thiem.

Nadal's response to losing that set was sensational.

While most observers sat back in their chairs in expectation of a grandstand finish to an already absorbing contest, Rafael Nadal had other ideas.

Thiem looked flat at the start of the third set, perhaps still having a hangover from winning the second set, which was understandable, and Nadal needed no second invitation. The Spaniard pounced and raced out to a 4-0 lead en route claiming the set inside 30 minutes. The King of Clay strengthened his stranglehold on the match with an early break in the fourth set, and while Thiem fought valiantly, there was no stopping Nadal. 

Victory was achieved in just over three hours, with an emotional Nadal collapsing into the clay to celebrate the moment he won his 12th French Open title.

“There has to be a reason why he's that successful”, Thiem said. 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."

We definitely did.

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"It is truly incredible. I cannot explain it"- Nadal reflects on 12th French Open title

Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem in four sets to win an incredible 12th French Open title on Sunday.

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