French Open final underway - 6/10/2018 8:19:47 AM

Beads of sweat run from Spain's Rafael Nadal's face as he prepares to serve against Austria's Dominic Thiem in the men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadi

French Open final underway - 6/10/2018 8:19:47 AM

He said it was because he had started the clay-court season with "some doubts" before going on to win a record-extending 11th title at Roland Garros.

For Toni Nadal, who stopped coaching his nephew at the end of last season, the experience wasn't that different.

- Nadal's uncle Miguel Angel Nadal was a former soccer player who represented Barcelona, RCD Mallorca and the Spain national team.

Against many other opponents - maybe ANY other - Thiem would have made things interesting.

"Obviously I'd like to have 20 titles like him - or more - but that's not in my head right now, and 17 is an incredible number".

Nadal has now won three Grand Slam titles since turning 30 and only three men, Federer, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, who handed over the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy on Sunday, have managed more, having done it four times. To win one single tournament 11 times is unimaginable.

But this will be the first time they've met in a Grand Slam final.

Paris - If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he'd have to amend his belief that death and taxes are life's only certainties and add a third - Rafael Nadal winning the French Open.

Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts as he plays Austria's Dominic Thiem during the men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Sunday
French Open final underway - 6/10/2018 8:19:47 AM

Juan Martin del Potro, who was run ragged by the world number one on Court Philippe Chatrier in this year's semi-finals, was right to state that it's nearly impossible to beat Nadal on clay. "You need to have, I think, many extraordinary skills and talents and work ethics to achieve that". It was a first Grand Slam final for Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian.

"Tough moment in the third set when I got a little bit cramped on the hand", Nadal said. He pounded huge serves that topped 135 miles per hour (220 kph) - about 25 miles per hour (40 kph) better than Nadal's fastest - and translated into seven aces but also had five double-faults.

Tears welled in the eyes of the now 11-time champion as he was applauded by the crowd.

But Nadal's form never wavered, and soon enough he was celebrating his 17th Grand Slam title overall, second among men only to Roger Federer's 20.

The 25-year-old Italian had never won a Grand Slam match before this French Open, but he beat Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals after also eliminating players seeded No 8 and 10.

He was serving in the fourth game when he went back to his chair and unwrapped strapping on his left wrist. He was visited by the trainer that day, too, with Nadal saying it was to prevent sweat from traveling to his hand. The Austrian had trouble with the Nadal serve, and he gave up an easy hold. Nadal is 49-2 since 2017 when playing on clay. He lost to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in five sets in the first round at the claycourt Major, that sent his ranking tumbling. "So it was a demanding two months for me", Nadal told reporters.

Juan Martin del Potro jumped two spots to No 4 by reaching his first French Open semifinal in nine years, and Thiem rose one place to No 7 by reaching his first Grand Slam final.

Nadal won the first set 6-4.

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