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Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem for 11th French Open title

Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem for 11th French Open title

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.

Seventh seed Thiem arrived on a sultry Court Philippe Chatrier with three career wins over Nadal, all on clay, and in an absorbing first set lasting an hour showed why ― going toe-to-toe in some ferocious rallies.

For Thiem, playing in his first Slam final, it was a tremendous letdown for a player who is the only man to have beaten the Spaniard on clay in the last two years.

He is now three grand slam titles short of Roger Federer, the pair having shared the past six slam titles between them.

Nadal will have Federer's record of 20 Grand Slams in his sights, and will be hoping to challenge the Swiss at Wimbledon at the start of July. In 112 best-of-five-set matches, Nadal has never lost after claiming the first set.

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.

Nadal called on the trainer to get his forearms massaged twice in the final set but even that problem failed to improve Thiem's chances of emulating fellow Austrian Thomas Muster's 1995 triumph.

Nadal retained the momentum in the second set, breaking his opponent in the second game and holding out to edge closer to yet another title at Roland Garros.

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"If you tell me seven, eight years ago that I will be here. having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something nearly impossible", Nadal said. In fact, after just a few minutes of play, the ten-time champion had won eight of the first nine points.

He's the only player to beat Nadal on clay in the past two years - in Rome last year and in Madrid last month.

Dominic Thiem was vying for his first Grand Slam title on Sunday. Thiem broke the Spaniard's serve in the third game of the match, nullifying Nadal's early break but earned only one more break point - which was saved by Nadal.

It was a match told in break points. After guzzling water during that break, Nadal felt better and was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.

But the Austrian freed his shoulders and broke back in the third game with a forehand victor - pumping his fists in the direction of coach Gunter Bresnik.

Despite the loss, the 24-year-old Austrian said it had been a "great two weeks" for him.

But Nadal held with some clever drop shots and after taking the second set it merely became a race against time to finish off Thiem before the rain arrived. At the beginning of 2017, Federer held 17 Slams to Nadal's 14.