Dominic Thiem hails 'awesome' King of Clay Nadal after French Open defeat

Rafael Nadal into French Open finals against Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal into French Open finals against Dominic Thiem

He seemed unbeatable on the surface.

It is that forthright modesty which endears Nadal to his legion of fans as is his respect for opponents, never forgetting to applaud every vanquished foe off court. Not much more of a daunting task than doing so against Nadal at the French Open, where he is now 11-0 in finals and 86-2 overall.

"I'm very happy to win the tournament". The king of clay had triumphed once more - this time against the anointed prince.

After Nadal won the first, there was an air of inevitability. In 2009, he was upset by big-hitting Robin Soderling in the fourth round.

He has now also joined Federer and Novak Djokovic in passing the $100 million prize money barrier.

When Thiem sent a return long on a fifth match point, Nadal raised his arms in celebration.

Converted to dollars, the French Open's total offering comes out at $46.3m - ahead of Wimbledon's $45.6m and the Australian Open's $44.5m.

Nadal became the first man to beat Federer in a Slam final, ending the Swiss star's hopes of holding all four majors at the same time. After serving a fault, Nadal took the unusual step of heading to the sideline in the middle of a game. Another forehand victor from Nadal found a corner, and Thiem yelled toward his coach. The Austrian had trouble with the Nadal serve, and he gave up an easy hold. Nadal cruised to a 3-0 lead in the second set and didn't look back.

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

Against seventh seed Thiem he was at his destructive best, using his athleticism and mental resilience to wear the Austrian down with his relentless shot-making. For the last 14 years, he hasn't relented. Could Thiem provide us with a classic final?

"The players of today on the tour are exceptional athletes and tennis players".

"And the fact that I didn't give up after the one past year here [in which she lost in three sets to Jelena Ostapenko] means that I'm strong inside and I do this just because I love this sport".

The Spaniard edged an intense opening set, tightening his grip in the second.

The first set had taken 57 minutes, in stiflingly humid conditions, but there was to be no let-up for the underdog in the second. Thiem tied the score at 2-2, before going down 5-4. He wound up with 42 unforced errors to Nadal's 24. Across the other slow-medium clay venues - Monte Carlo, Barcelona and here - Nadal has utterly schooled Thiem. It clearly impacted his serve moving forward, but not his ground strokes.

The duopoly has continued into this year, with the pair splitting the first two slams of 2018 - meaning they have carved up the last six between them.

As Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports notes, men have not always been the bigger draws as Grand Slam events. A few years ago, everyone thought he was done.

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