He seemed unbeatable on the surface.
It was his only appearance before winning the Masters title in Monte Carlo in April, backing that up with victory at the Barcelona Open and another Masters title in Rome. And, of course, Nadal has owned the tournament that history will care about most: the French Open. Only Thiem's 2016 victory over Nadal in Buenos Aires was a success on non-quick clay. Today was very humid against a player who pushed me to the limit. Now, a decade later, the Spaniard is still the undisputed King of Clay.
Once he moved two sets ahead it merely became a race against time for Nadal to finish the match off before the rain arrived. 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.
However, he fell to a third successive straight-set defeat by the Spaniard at the French Open.
The No. 7-seeded Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria, was appearing in a major final for the first time.
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Rafael Nadal continued his record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros. Thiem withstood a barrage of break points to hold in a marathon sixth game, which he thought he had won at 40-30 when he left a wide ball, only for the umpire to overrule the line judge. Nadal cruised to a 3-0 lead in the second set and didn't look back.
The next few games were an absolute treat for fans of clay court tennis. This, though, is Nadal's court, the place he has dominated like no other. For a time, fans could nearly believe that Thiem would present a challenge in this match. At one point finally, Thiem tried going around the post in the penultimate game, just after a Nadal cross-court backhand return seared so close over the net cord that it made the Parisians murmur.
Halep, who first grabbed the top ranking last October, could have been overtaken by five women if she didn't at least get to the semifinals at Roland Garros. "The young players are still lagging behind".
That it was not was testimony to Nadal's level, which never wavered, despite everything Thiem threw at him. Those conditions might have contributed to the cramping that affected Nadal about two hours into the final, at 2-1 in the third set. It clearly impacted his serve moving forward, but not his ground strokes.
At the Slam before that, the U.S. Open last September, Nadal was the last man standing. Their other six-Slam streak came from 2008-09. As we head into Wimbledon, Federer and Nadal are the tournament's two favorites.
Slow starts have plagued Nadal in several of his matches this fortnight, most notably against 11th-Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals.