Monday 18 February 2019

Nadal still the master on clay

Rafa keeps best until French final

Rafa Nadal. Photo: REUTERS
Rafa Nadal. Photo: REUTERS

Rafael Nadal saved his best until last as he demolished Dominic Thiem to seal his 11th French Open title.

The 32-year-old continued his extraordinary domination at Roland Garros with a ruthless 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory.

Seventh seed Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the past two years, and he claimed he had a plan to thwart the Spaniard in Paris.

But once a competitive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal's 'undecima' never looked in any doubt.

In fact the only thing to trouble Nadal unduly was a tightening up of his arm midway through the third set.


"I had to be very aggressive, he's a very difficult opponent," said Nadal.

"I had a tough moment in the third set when I had a little bit of cramp. I was a little bit scared. But that is sport. It was very humid and he pushed me to the limit.

"I'm very happy to win the tournament. Dominic is a good friend, but I played my best match today, in the final."

If Thiem is, as he is widely regarded, the second best clay-court player in the world then he probably has a few more of these pummellings to look forward to at least until Nadal finally calls it a day.

Nadal's incredible record in Paris now reads 86 wins and two defeats. He has won every final he has reached, and in those 11 showpieces he has dropped just six sets. He is now level with Margaret Court for the record of the most titles at a single grand slam, while his total of 17 overall brings him closer to Roger Federer's 23. He is also assured of keeping his number one ranking for good measure.

Simona Halep. Photo: AP
Simona Halep. Photo: AP

Simona Halep will head to Wimbledon having finally put to bed doubts about her big-game temperament. The 26-year-old Romanian ended her grand slam drought by beating Sloane Stephens in the French Open final.

Halep had something of a reputation for caving in under pressure at key moments, never more so than in last year's Paris final when, from a set and a break up, she lost to unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

This year the roles were reversed; Halep found herself a set and a break down against American Stephens, but came back to win an enthralling match 3-6 6-4 6-1.

She had finally got the monkey off her back, no longer the world's number one player without a grand slam to her name.

"It doesn't matter anymore," she said. "I'm really happy that I won this grand slam because being number one without a grand slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100pc."

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