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French Open Takeaways: Nadal owns the clay, again

11 June 2018

Thiem was trying to become only the second Austrian grand slam champion after Tomas Muster's 1995 Paris triumph and played his part in the tussle that lasted two hours and 42 minutes, but was unable to sustain the high-octane tennis needed to unnerve Nadal.

But he remains philosophical about the rest of his career which has so far yielded 17 majors, 79 titles in total as well as more than $100 million in prize money.

Nadal is now up to 17 Grand Slam titles, second all time to Roger Federer.

The mind-boggling stats only get wilder from there.

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This year, Nadal dropped just one set in the entire tournament. The French Open statisticians are nicer than they should be, as all but one of Thiem's 19 errors in that stretch were unforced (officially, 12 were unforced and seven were forced). He also lost just one in 2007 and 2012.

But from the moment Nadal broke serve in the 10th game to win the opening set Thiem's belief ebbed away. A year ago he lost in the opening round to Tommy Haas.

"But having said that Rafa is 32 now, although not that he looks weaker or older, but throughout this tournament he has not looked his very best".

Another dominant statistic that might go unnoticed is that the King of Clay has only gone to five sets twice before, and he won both times. The first came in 2011 against John Isner in the first round and the second against Novak Djokovic in the 2013 semifinals.

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The square-shouldered Austrian tried his best to engage with Nadal rather than let Nadal's avalanche of statistics overwhelm him. Like so numerous pretenders, Thiem just did not have quite the same level of consistency to derail the Spaniard, who ruthlessly targeted his flowing backhand.

Going into this year's French Open, or even the clay season, it seemed fated to end with another Nadal victory.

The eight-year age gap between the two made no apparent difference as the master gave his student the ultimate lesson in front of his adoring audience.

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The Spaniard is a routine victor at the other clay tournaments on the ATP World Tour.

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Nadal had come into the year's second Grand Slam high on confidence, after wins in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

Over the best-of-five sets on clay, Nadal improved to 111-2 - it is a figure nearly as imposing as the nearby Eiffel Tower - his lone reverses coming against Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015 at the French Open.

He joined Australia's Margaret Court as the only player to win 11 titles at the same major, while the victory also took his record at Roland Garros to 86 wins and just two losses.

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French Open Takeaways: Nadal owns the clay, again