World number one Rafael Nadal won an 11th French Open title yesterday by beating Austrian Dominic Thiem in straight sets.
Nadal, 32, won 6-4 6-3 6-2 to earn his 17th Grand Slam, three adrift of Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record.
The Spaniard edged an intense opening set, tightening his grip in the second.
And despite having cramp in the third he increased the tempo further, beating Thiem in his first major final when the 24-year-old returned long.
“It’s a dream to win 11 times,” Nadal said.
“It was important to play the way I did. It was a tough moment when I got cramp. He is a player who pushes you to the limit.”
The victory means the past six Grand Slam titles have been won by either Nadal or Federer with the next generation of players finding it hard to break the veterans’ stranglehold on the game.
Nadal is the only second player in history to win the same Grand Slam on 11 occasions after Margaret Court, who won 11 Australian Open titles between 1960 and 1973.
However, it was not all smooth for Nadal, who missed four match points on his own serve before clinching victory when Thiem went long on the fifth.
Nadal dropped his racquet at the baseline in celebration before turning to his box and raising both hands skywards.
Nadal had made slow starts to his service games against Schwartzman and in his semi-final with Juan Martin del Potro, but imposed himself straight away against Thiem by holding to love in the opening game and backing it up with a break in the next.
Thiem did break back in the third game, but had to fend off more chances for Nadal on his own serve – particularly in a 13-minute sixth game – before the Spaniard struck in the final game of the set.
Nadal also stamped his authority early in the second set, breaking again at the first opportunity, as Thiem started to become frustrated.
The Austrian had a chance to break back for 4-3, but his opponent saw it off with a backhand down the line and closed out the set as the inevitable loomed.
Only one player had ever beaten Nadal from two sets down at a Grand Slam – Fabio Fognini at the 2015 US Open.
Thiem never looked like becoming the second.
Nadal refused to ease off at the start of the third, missing five break points in two long service games for the Austrian, who eventually buckled with a wide forehand to trail 2-1.
Nadal broke again for a 5-2 lead, then served out – after suffering cramp in his left arm and missing those match points – to win in two hours and 42 minutes.