Paris:Playing the king of clay at the French Open is akin to scaling Mont Blanc without any ropes and even an intrepid adventurer from Europe’s Alpine heartland found it a peak too steep as Rafael Nadal claimed an 11th title .
Austria’s Dominic Thiem strained every sinew trying to cling on to the 32-year-old Spaniard and at times even gained a precarious foothold in his first Grand Slam final.
But it ultimately proved a futile mission as, just like in all but two of Nadal’s previous 87 matches here, the incredible Spaniard proved invincible, winning 6-4 6-3 6-2.
In claiming a 17th Grand Slam title, Nadal matched Margaret Court’s record of 11 titles at a single major — hers all coming at the Australian Open. There is nothing to suggest Nadal’s domination on the Parisian dirt will end any time soon.
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.
But from the moment Nadal broke serve in the 10th game to win the opening set Thiem’s belief ebbed away.
There was late anxiety for Nadal as the predicted thunderstorms loomed and he needed his left forearm massaged after beginning to suffer from cramp.
He also let four match points go at 5-2 but he would not be denied as Thiem went long with a backhand on the fifth.
Nadal’s celebration was restrained — throwing his arms skywards and turning to his entourage including coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya and his uncle Toni who stood down last year after his nephew Nadal reached La Decima.
There was no disguising what it still means to him, though, as the tears welled up after being handed the Coupe des Mousquetaires from Australian great Ken Rosewall.
“It’s amazing now, I can’t describe my feelings,” a sweat-soaked Nadal told the crowd. “It’s not even a dream to win here 11 times, because it’s impossible to think of something like this.”