PARIS (Reuters) - Dominic Thiem hailed Rafael Nadal’s “awesome” 11th French Open title after suffering a straight-sets defeat by the king of clay in the final at Roland Garros on Sunday.
The Austrian pushed Nadal hard early on but his spirit appeared crushed when the Spaniard won his service game to love to secure the first set, going on to win 6-4 6-3 6-2.
Dejected but gracious in defeat, Thiem told Nadal and the Philippe Chatrier court that his extended record for the most men’s Grand Slam wins at any tournament was “one of the most awesome things in sport. Congrats. Bravo.”
Thiem arrived in Paris in hot form, having picked up more Tour-level wins than any player in 2018 and beaten Nadal in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last month, snapping Nadal’s 21-match winning streak and his run of 50 straight sets won on clay.
But beating an imperious Nadal at his favourite slam was too big an ask for the 24-year-old.
“To me it’s still been two great weeks,” Thiem told the Philippe Chatrier centre court and his opponent.
“I still remember when you won here the first time in 2005. I was 11-years-old, watching it on TV and honestly I never expected that one day I would play the finals here so I am still really happy.”
It was a match told in break points. 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.
Nadal was unrelenting against the Thiem serve, earning 17 break points and winning five as the Austrian sprayed 42 unforced errors during the match.
After Nadal won the first, there was an air of inevitability.
“Thank you to all of you. I love the tournament,” Thiem told the crowd. “I hope soon I get another chance soon, maybe against you.”
(The story has been corrected to delete incorrect stat from penultimate paragraph.)
Reporting by Richard Lough, editing by Ed Osmond