Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Sports | By Brooke Harris

Dominic Thiem may have an advantage against Nadal, suggests Croft


Rafael Nadal defended his French Open title defeating Dominic Thiem in dominating fashion 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

As he sat down in the French Open lounge on Saturday, Günter Bresnik, Dominic Thiem's coach, was asked about Thiem's upcoming French Open final against Rafael Nadal, the finest clay court tennis player of all time.

"Along with Nadal, he is literally still the world of men's tennis, and to not play a Grand Slam on a surface that we play for two months, on which everybody has grown up on, to not come to the showpiece of claycourt tennis, it hurts the tournament, it hurts professional tennis, it hurts men's tennis".

Rafal Nadal admits he harbours ambitions of catching Roger Federer's Grand Slam haul but insists he's not obsessed in his pursuit of the 36-year-old's trophy total.

"But having said that Rafa is 32 now, although not that he looks weaker or older, but throughout this tournament he has not looked his very best".

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Thiem's fighting spirit was evident in abundance - he continued to put pressure on Nadal through his return game, while consistently scrapping to stave off perilous positions on his own serve - but ultimately the Spaniard's quality and, often, his sheer force of will, won the day.

There was late anxiety for Nadal as the predicted thunderstorms loomed and he needed his left forearm massaged after beginning to suffer from cramp.

His lead was reminiscent of their semifinal at the French Open a year ago, when Nadal also held the early advantage.

Thiem stayed with Nadal in the early going on a cloudy and steamy afternoon; the temperature was 24 degrees Celsius, the humidity approached 70 per cent.

11 is the number of times he has won in French Open final.

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Change is coming in the men's game: Alexander Zverev is 21 and ranked No. 3 after winning the Masters 1000 title in Madrid and pushing Nadal hard in the Italian Open final.

Understandably, Thiem looked edgy as the match begun and he managed to win only one of the first eight points as Nadal, cheered loudly when he walked on court, bristled with intent.

At 2-1 in the fourth set, Nadal stopped serving during a game because he couldn't straighten his left middle finger. The Austrian followed that point up with three consecutive errors, and the first set went to the Spaniard.

The Austrian won just one point in falling 2-0 behind but got back on serve immediately courtesy of two pinpoint forehands, and three rescued break points over games four and six were further evidence of his growing confidence.

- Nadal condemned his great rival to his worst ever loss in a Grand Slam event. Nadal held for 5-4, and Thiem basically handed over the next game - and the set - with four mistakes. Those conditions might have contributed to the cramping that affected Nadal about two hours into the final, at 2-1 in the third set.

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