Rafael Nadal walks up to collect the trophy from Ken Rosewall. It’s his 11th French Open title and it still feels sweet. The tears trickle down his cheeks and he isn’t finished yet. It’s his 17th grand slam title, taking him three behind Roger Federer, who’ll have designs on extending the gap at Wimbledon next month. That’s all from me. The 2018 French Open is over. Rafael Nadal is the men’s champion. What’s new? Thanks for reading and emailing over the past fortnight. See you at SW19! Bye.
It’s the first time since 1992 that the top seeds have won the men’s and the women’s singles. Jim Courier and Monica Seles were the victorious pair 26 years ago, the Rafa Nadal and Simona Halep of their day.
Ken Rosewall, the great Australian champion, will present the trophy to Nadal today. “I was first here as a 17-year-old. Sixty-three years later I’m here to present the trophy. I’m very pleased I’m not playing today. The players of today are exceptional athletes and tennis players. No words can express what we feel about Rafa’s game and what he has done for tennis. The match today? We would have liked to see a few more sets but Rafa was too good and I think Dominic was a little disappointed with his own game today.”
More from Rafa Nadal, speaking in halting French before switching to English: “It was the best match tournament of me. It was important because Dominic is a very aggressive player. I had a tough moment in the third set when I got cramp in my hand. I was very scared. But that is sport. It is very humid and I was against a tough player who pushes you to the end.”
Rafael Nadal briefly left the court but he’s reappeared for his interview. “It is incredible. I am very happy. Well played to Dominic. He has played great. He is a good friend, one of these players that the tour needs. I am sure you will win here in the next couple of years.”
Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to win the French Open!
Nadal has more treatment on his aching left wrist before this game. He only needs it to function enough for him to claim four more points, though, and then this is all over. He quickly makes it 15-0. Thiem sends a backhand wide. 30-0. A big serve from Nadal makes it 40-0. This damp squib of a final is almost done, although Nadal has to wait a bit longer after missing a backhand down the line. Then Thiem reads a drop shot and pushes a clever forehand past Nadal for 40-30. Hmm. Maybe he does get nervous. The third championship point comes and goes, a backhand drifting wide, the game moving to deuce. Thiem goes on the attack. But he can’t break Nadal down. A poor forehand flies long and Nadal has a fourth championship point. He cracks a backhand wide, though. Nadal looks like he’s playing within himself now. He’s very contained. Yet Thiem’s still wayward. He can’t take advantage of his stricken opponent, firing a forehand wide to bring up a fifth championship point. Nadal serves wide and he can finally smile and hold his arms in the air when Thiem sends his backhand long! That’s it! It’s all over! Rafael Nadal has beaten cramp and Dominic Thiem to win his 11th French Open title!
Third set: Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 5-2 Thiem* (*denotes server): A frustrated Thiem makes the most of Nadal’s cramping left hand by, er, gifting the Spaniard a 0-30 lead. An ace makes it 15-30 but Nadal earns two break points thanks to a drop shot. He converts it. He will serve for his 11th French Open title. As you do. Maybe I’ll be good at tennis if I cramp more.
Third set: Nadal* 6-4, 6-3, 4-2 Thiem (*denotes server): Nadal seems to be coping just fine, judging by the way he tears a couple of forehands past Thiem for 30-0. He holds to love. He is preposterous.
Third set: Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 3-2 Thiem* (*denotes server): Thiem wins the first three points to lead 40-0. Nadal whips a forehand past him to make it 40-15. But Thiem holds. Will Nadal call for the trainer again?
Third set: Nadal* 6-4, 6-3, 3-1 Thiem (*denotes server): At 30-0, Nadal has the trainer on. He removes the tape covering the wristband on his left wrist. He’s fiddling with his fingers and his wrist. The trainer massages him a bit. On ITV, Jim Courier thinks that Nadal’s cramping in the humidity. That’s just speculation, though. Nadal takes a big gulp from an energy drink and eventually play resumes. No longer wearing the tape, Nadal loses the next point and chunters at his box. This is all very strange. But while the speed of Nadal’s serve has dipped, he still holds to 15.
Third set: Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 2-1 Thiem* (*denotes server): At 30-all, Nadal crushes a forehand away to earn a break point. Thiem forces deuce with a canny drop shot. An ace gives him a point for the game. Nadal won’t stop pestering him, though, and he eventually breaks when he forces Thiem to swipe a slice wide.
Third set: Nadal* 6-4, 6-3, 1-1 Thiem (*denotes server): Nadal races through a stress-free hold.
Third set: Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 0-1 Thiem* (*denotes server): The
third set begins after a short break and Nadal has three break points when Thiem, the fighting sapping from his body, nets a forehand. Thiem saves them all, though, and then he wipes out a fourth. He’s earned this hold: he seals it with a rasping backhand. “I’m not sure if this match will end up going down as a classic, but one thing’s for sure,” says Peter Oh. “The grunting is top, top notch.”
Rafael Nadal wins the second set 6-3; he leads 6-4, 6-3!
It’s not long before Nadal has two set points. He bounces the ball. He misses a first serve. The second’s in and he just has to wait for Thiem to loop a backhand wide.
Second set: Nadal 6-4, 5-3 Thiem* (*denotes server): Thiem holds to 30. Nadal will serve for the set.
Second set: Nadal* 6-4, 5-2 Thiem (*denotes server): Thiem pumps his fist after belting a forehand past Nadal for 0-15. But Nadal makes it 15-all, kissing the line with a spinning, snarling forehand. An incredulous Thiem looks at the ball in astonishment. Somehow, though, he finds the will to move to 30-40, earning a break point with a skilled drop shot. Nadal’s been given a code violation for taking too long to serve. There’s a bit more tension now. Thiem has a look at a second serve but Nadal takes control of the rally with a drop shot, eventually winning it by ramming a backhand into the open court. Nadal holds, moving a game away from a two-set lead.
Second set: Nadal 6-4, 4-2 Thiem* (*denotes server): Thiem holds to love. At least he’s still fighting.
Second set: Nadal* 6-4, 4-1 Thiem (*denotes server): There’s a frisson of excitement when Nadal falls to 0-30. The game even goes to deuce. But Nadal holds. How are you meant to beat him here?
Second set: Nadal 6-4, 3-1 Thiem* (*denotes server): Thiem holds to love. Maybe he’s going to do a Halep.
Second set: Nadal* 6-4, 3-0 Thiem (*denotes server): Nadal consolidates the break, holding to 15. Thiem is beaten. They can start getting the trophy presentation ready.
Second set: Nadal 6-4, 2-0 Thiem* (*denotes server): Nadal charges forward to punch a volley away for two break points. Thiem saves them both and a third chance for Nadal goes begging when he sends a forehand long. Nadal carves out a fourth chance but Thiem whacks a forehand past him. But Thiem’s too erratic. Facing a fifth break point, he blooters a backhand long. Ah well. The competitiveness was nice while it lasted.
Second set: Nadal* 6-4, 1-0 Thiem (*denotes server): Everyone watching this is now very, very glad not to be Dominic Thiem, who’s probably in for two sets of pure torture. Nadal holds to 30.
Rafael Nadal wins the first set 6-4!
Thiem should win the first point. Instead, he dumps a volley into the net. Uh oh. You can’t do that against Nadal. Not here. Thiem’s wobbling. He misses a forehand for 0-30. Then he nets one to gift Nadal three break points. Thiem’s unravelled. He’s furious with himself and there’s an inevitability about the ragged forehand that flies miles past the baseline, handing Nadal the set. You sense that might be that. It’s been a highly competitive match but Nadal doesn’t let leads go.
First set: Nadal* 5-4 Thiem (*denotes server): The first two points are shared. Nadal glares at his racket for a moment. Then he wins the next two points. He holds. Thiem will serve to keep the set alive.
First set: Nadal 4-4 Thiem* (*denotes server): Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff are in the crowd. Like Nadal, they know what it means to rule Paris. As for today, they’ll surely be impressed with what they’re seeing from Thiem, who allows himself another quiet fist pump after spraying a backhand past Nadal for 30-0. Soon it’s 40-0 and Thiem seals his first comfortable hold by hammering a forehand down the line.
First set: Nadal* 4-3 Thiem (*denotes server): This set has already been going for 40 minutes. But Nadal races through this game, holding to 15 comfortably enough.
First set: Nadal 3-3 Thiem* (*denotes server): Thiem’s spanking the ball hard but the accuracy isn’t always there. This game goes to 30-all. But Thiem is brave enough to keep going for it with his forehand and he eventually makes space for a missile down the line. That one’s not coming back. 40-30. Then comes a moment of controversy, though. Thiem sees a Nadal shot drop wide and leaves it. Yet the umpire runs down to check the mark, decides that it was in and awards the point to Nadal because Thiem left it. Hawkeye suggests the umpire’s wrong. Thiem gets on with it. What else can he do? The problem, though, is that Nadal’s not going to let him off easily and he has a break point when Thiem overcooks a forehand. These are nervy times for Thiem but he stays cool, duking it out with Nadal from the baseline and drawing the error from the Spaniard by moving him around a bit. Yet his second serve’s under pressure and Thiem gifts Nadal a second break point when he sends a backhand long. This game is taking for ever. Nadal prolongs it when he misses a forehand down the line. Deuce again. Thiem’s going to have to be magnificent. He chops a drop shot over the net and clenches his fist after outwitting Nadal at the net. Nadal misses a backhand return and, after an eternity, Thiem holds.
First set: Nadal* 3-2 Thiem (*denotes server): At 15-all, Nadal produces a gorgeous lob to leave Thiem stranded. Soon it’s 40-15. The game’s got away from Thiem pretty quickly. Nadal holds to 30 when Thiem nets a forehand return. “Come on!” Nadal cries, geeing himself up.
First set: Nadal 2-2 Thiem* (*denotes server): The fans roar as Thiem spanks another forehand past Nadal. They want a contest. But a double-fault lets Nadal back in and the Spaniard makes it 15-30 with a lovely forehand winner. Thiem needs to switch on. Though he moves to 40-30, another double-fault takes it to deuce and Nadal has a break point after yet another error from Thiem. He survives, though, and eventually holds for the first time.
First set: Nadal* 2-1 Thiem (*denotes server): A couple of errors from Nadal give Thiem some hope at 15-30. A marathon rally ensues and Thiem earns two break points, letting rip with a crosscourt forehand. This is better from the Austrian. He can’t take the first but he claims the second when a mishit from Nadal allows him to come forward and slap a forehand into the right corner. There goes the break!
First set: Nadal 2-0 Thiem* (*denotes server): You feel that Thiem, who has no experience of playing matches as big as this, needs to start well. Even at this early stage this has the smell of a vital game for him and there’s a little murmur from the crowd when he balloons a backhand to make it 0-15. He could do with winning a point. Nadal isn’t in the mood to let him have one, though, and he takes advantage of Thiem’s deep position by making it 0-30 with a drop shot. Thiem’s under pressure and he’s facing two break points when he pushes a backhand long. He nets a forehand and Nadal’s already in front. Oh dear.
First set: Nadal* 1-0 Thiem (*denotes server): The men’s final opens with Rafa Nadal, the king of clay and dressed in blue, serving and snorting and marching into a 30-0 lead. Dominic Thiem, the young pretender, is standing near the baseline as he prepares to receive. That’s a change: his return position has been notably deep throughout this tournament. But it doesn’t help him much in this game, which flies by in a flash, Nadal holding to love with some solid play at the net.
Dominic Thiem wins the toss and chooses to serve.
Rafa Nadal leads the head-to-head 6-3. But Dominic Thiem has three wins over Nadal on clay.
Here come the players. Dominic Thiem, the lower ranked player, is first out and he’s closely followed by Rafa Nadal, who’s done this plenty of times before. It’s bright but cloudy in Paris today. Let’s hope there’s no rain.
For Dominic Thiem, this could be a breakthrough moment. He’ll be a star if he can somehow summon the inspiration to achieve one of the toughest challenges in sport: subduing Rafa Nadal in a best-of-five match on clay. The Austrian is one of the leaders of the generation hoping to topple the Big Five supremacy in the men’s game and it does seem likely that he won’t have to wait too long for his first grand slam title, even if it doesn’t come today. Thiem has a powerful game and his coach, Gunter Bresnik, has told the New York Times that his player has benefited from playing in a low-level event in Lyon the week before Paris:
Everybody calls me an idiot, maybe even for good reason. But I like this. And I’m really happy to prove the people wrong, because all the guys who practiced the week or 10 days before Roland Garros, they are already at home for a week. Dominic played four matches in Lyon, came here Saturday late at night with the train, practiced the next day and played on Monday. People said: ‘It’s stupid. He’s not going to last.’ But my idea behind this is that to prepare people for handling high pressure, physically and mentally, you have to put them under pressure, well dosed, not too much and not too little, but under pressure.”
Rafa Nadal has been in 10 French Open finals. He’s yet to lose one. He beat Mariano Puerto for his first in 2005 and since then he’s seen off Roger Federer four times, Novak Djokovic twice and Robin Soderling, David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka, who was no match for him last year. Put it that way and you can be forgiven for feeling that Dominic Thiem might be better off staying in the locker room. A Nadal win today would see him equal Margaret Court’s record of 11 titles at one grand slam – the Australian’s came in the Australian Open and bridged the amateur and professional eras.
Rafa Nadal has made it this far after beating Simone Bolelli, Guido Pella, Richard Gasquet, Max Marterer, Diego Schwartzman and Juan Martin Del Potro.
Dominic Thiem has made it this far after beating Ilya Ivashka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Kei Nishikori, Alexander Zverev and Marco Cecchinato.
Hello. It’s getting to the point where Rafael Nadal’s dominance of the French Open is going to have to feature in guidebooks to Paris. Forget about going up the Eiffel Tower, taking a boat down the Seine, walking along the Champs-Elysées, queuing for Notre-Dame and looking out over the city from Montmartre – if you really want to understand Parisian life, take a trip to Roland Garros to witness one of sport’s most crushing inevitabilities: Nadal grinding some poor guy into the Parisian clay.
He brings an imposing 85-2 record into this afternoon’s final and, if there is to be an upset, then Austria’s Dominic Thiem must produce the performance of his life. That’s not entirely unthinkable given that the seventh-seeded 24-year-old has beaten Nadal twice on clay in the past two years, most recently when they met in the quarter-finals in Madrid last month, and can take encouragement from the fact that the Spaniard has wobbled a little in the past fortnight. Yet history suggests that the chances of Nadal losing this one are slimmer than them running out of baguettes in Paris.
Only two men have beaten Nadal at the French Open – Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015 (a wrist injury also got the better of him in 2016) – and the 32-year-old is searching for his 11th title after ending his quest for La Decima last year. It’s hard to see him being denied. Thiem might be the world’s second best player on clay but this is his debut in a grand slam final and he’s up against a player who has a 16-7 winning record in these marquee occasions. The facts are cold and unforgiving.
Of course, Thiem shouldn’t be too pessimistic. Otherwise there’d be no point in him even turning up. He has the weapons, power and swagger to cause problems and he’ll surely have noted that it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Nadal at this tournament. Simone Bolelli inconvenienced him in the first round, Diego Schwartzman led by a set and a break before rain interrupted in the quarters and Nadal he had to save six break points in his semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro. But Nadal, who destroyed Thiem in the semis last year, is so remorseless here. This is his kingdom. Court Philippe-Chatrier is his palace. He’ll expect to reign supreme once more.
Play begins at: 2pm BST, 3pm in Paris.