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Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to win twelfth French Open title

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 9 Jun 2019
  • Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem to win the 2019 French Open
  • Nadal records four-set win over Thiem to claim twelfth Roland Garros trophy
  • The 'King of Clay' has now won 18 Grand Slams overall
Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem in four sets to win his twelfth French Open title (PA Sports)

Rafael Nadal defeats Dominic Thiem in four sets to win the 2019 French Open.

Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to capture an incredible twelfth French Open title, falling to his back on the clay as he served the match out after three hours and four minutes.

Nadal's eighteenth Grand Slam title sees him move within just two of Roger Federer's total of 20 and maintain his unbeaten record in French Open finals. 

World no. 2 Nadal is now 93-2 at the French Open and has only ever lost to two players: Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015. 

Thiem has been seen as Nadal's natural heir after making the semifinals of the French Open for four consecutive years and the final in 2018 and 2019, but once again proved unable to beat the King of Clay in a best-of-five sets match. There continue to be no active male Grand Slam champions under the age of 30.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has held the record for most Grand Slam titles at a single major for some time, but seemed more vulnerable than usual in the run-up to Roland Garros, losing matches to Fabio Fognini at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Thiem himself at the Barcelona Open and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Masters.

However, Nadal had dropped just one set on his way to the final and crushed Roger Federer, returning to the French Open for the first time since 2015, in straight sets in the semifinals.

World no. 4 Thiem came into the match as just one of two players who have beaten Nadal four or more times on clay, but with a significant physical disadvantage after adverse weather and some bizarre scheduling decisions on the part of the French Open organizers saw him playing four days in a row.

While Nadal led the head-to-head with Thiem 8-4, Thiem had scored four victories over Nadal on clay, including one at the Barcelona Open as Nadal tried to secure his twelfth title there and the 25-year-old Austrian's five-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, triumphing over wind, rain and the world no. 1, suggested he might be ready to change the result in a rematch of last year's French Open final with the Spaniard.

It was the Austrian who drew first blood in the final, striking two tremendously powerful forehands to break and lead 3-2. But not for the last time in the match, he played a poor game as he attempted to consolidate the break and Nadal broke back immediately before saving break point to hold for 4-3.

Nadal won a third game in a row, chasing down a Thiem drop shot and responding with an even better drop shot to set up break point and landing a sizzling cross-court backhand - the best shot for him against Roger Federer in the semifinals - to break and lead 5-3, closing the first set out 6-3 in 55 minutes.

Nadal has never lost a best-of-five sets match on clay after winning the first set - an extremely ominous stat for Thiem fans. 

If the first set had been all about brute physicality and long rallies off the ground, the second set was all about serve as Thiem adjusted his approach to try to play much more aggressive first-strike tennis, and Nadal responded in kind. Both men traded quick holds, with Nadal winning the first 16 points of the set on his serve before finally losing one on his way to a hold to 15 for 4-4.

Thiem produced two impressive holds to lead 6-5, guaranteeing himself a tie-break at least in the set, before a cluster of forehand errors saw Nadal surprisingly surrender serve.

An elated Thiem's momentum was stopped cold by a lengthy bathroom break for Nadal, and when play resumed the Austrian played a horrible game to be broken. Nadal raced to a 3-0 lead in nine minutes and at 4-0 had won 16 of 17 points played in the set. Thiem eventually got on the board, but Nadal completely dominated the set, winning 24 of the 31 points in it to give himself a tw-sets-to-one lead.

The fourth set opened with Nadal breaking to lead 2-0. Thiem had two break points in the next game to get back on serve but was unable to convert either, dropping to 2/6 on break points.

Thiem held from 0-40 to get on the scoreboard for 1-3 but it was his last flicker of resistance as the Austrian player was broken again to trail 1-5, leaving Nadal serving for the championship.

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Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to win twelfth French Open title

King of Clay Rafael Nadal increased his overall Grand Slam count to 18 and maintained his unbeaten record in French Open finals as he ground down the resistance of Dominic Thiem to beat the Austrian in four sets at Roland Garros on Sunday

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