Rafael Nadal battles past Dominic Thiem to secure 12th French Open title at Roland Garros

The King of Clay did drop a set to Dominic Thiem in a repeat of last year’s final to draw the match level at 1-1.

But the Austrian was to win only two more games as the Spaniard bludgeoned his way to the third set in only 24 minutes to seize control of the contest.

He won 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 in a minute over three hours – and has still only ever lost twice here.

Nadal had shared the record with Margaret Court who won the Australian Open 11 times while Martina Navratilova triumphed at Wimbledon nine times.

To put the world No.2’s achievement in perspective, he has now won twice as many titles here than the great Bjorn Borg.

Nadal has now also won 18 Grand Slam titles to close within two of the men’s record held by Roger Federer. And the Spaniard, who turned 33 last week, threatens to keep winning this title as long as he plays.

Thiem, 25, had the disadvantage of playing for the fourth consecutive day after his five-set win over world No.1 Novak Djokovic only finished at 4.02pm yesterday.

Less than 24 hours later, he was back on Court Philippe-Chatrier facing the toughest task in tennis.

The Austrian made the first break of the match to lead 3-2 after two crushing inside-out forehands but Nadal immediately broke back with a forehand winner.

And the Mallorcan broke the Thiem serve again to lead 5-3 and took his first set point when the world No.4 hit a wild backhand out.

Nadal won last year’s final here against Thiem in straight sets and a repeat threatened.

But in a tight second set, the Austrian hit 12 winners and made the only break at 6-5 when the Spaniard sent a backhand long on his first set point. We were all square after one hour and 42 minutes but the equality did not last long.

At the start of the third set, Thiem won only one point in the first three games and Nadal was 4-0 in only 14 minutes as he crushed a series of winners against his helpless opponent.

The defending champion raced into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set before closing out his 12th title with his second point when Thiem sent his backhand return long.

While nine different women have won the last 10 Grand Slams after Ash Barty triumphed yesterday, the Big Three in the men’s game have now won the last 10 titles dating back to Stan Wawrinka’s win at the 2016 US Open.

Nadal said: “First of all, congratulations to Dominic. I really hope he will have the chance to win in the future. He has an unbelievable passion for this sport. I wanted to congratulate him and encourage him for the future. 
“It is really incredible. I cannot explain. The sensation is a dream to play for the first time in 2005 here. I could not think that in 2019 I would be still here.”

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