Spain's Rafael Nadal bites the trophy as he celebrates his record 12th French Open title after winning against Austria's Dominic Thiem. Picture: AP Photo
Spain's Rafael Nadal bites the trophy as he celebrates his record 12th French Open title after winning against Austria's Dominic Thiem. Picture: AP Photo

‘He stepped on me’: Thiem’s take on brutal Nadal record

Dominic Thiem had Rafael Nadal exactly where he wanted - until reality bit.

Exchanging massive baseline blows with the sport's clay-court emperor, Thiem created opportunity and doubt.

And then, as he always does, Nadal crushed the life out of the challenger.

"After these two sets, I dropped a little bit my level, then Rafa, who won this tournament 12 times, he stepped on me," Thiem said.

From hard-won parity at a set apiece, Thiem was jettisoned 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1.

It was brutal, merciless and unrelenting.

Spain's Rafael Nadal lifts the cup after defeating Austria's Dominic Thiem in their men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament. Picture: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Spain's Rafael Nadal lifts the cup after defeating Austria's Dominic Thiem in their men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament. Picture: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

When it was done, Nadal occupied a place in history no other tennis player has explored as the winner of the same grand slam 12 times.

"He played, I think, outstanding, because especially in the first two sets I played very good tennis," Thiem said.

"What he was performing I think is unbelievable, really.

"There has to be a reason why he's that successful.

"I mean, he won 18 grand slams, which is a big number, which is only two less than Roger (Federer).

"So definitely he's one of the greatest of all time. Today, as well, I saw why.

"I played very good the first two sets, and then I had a little drop, which is against most of the players not that bad, but he took the chance and stepped right on me."

For Nadal, this was the most precious of his Paris dozen.

Thiem and other players must have been buoyed when Nadal -- coming off another knee injury - wallowed during the early stages of the claycourt swing.

A trio of semi-final finishes in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid would have bolstered most players, but not Nadal.

He admitted to struggling in Barcelona, recognising he was not mentally engaged.

Dominic Thiem returns the ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament. Picture: AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
Dominic Thiem returns the ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's final match of the French Open tennis tournament. Picture: AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

"After the first round in Barcelona, I was able to stay alone for a couple of hours in a room and think about it and think about what's going on, what I need to do," he said.

"And (there were) a couple of issues that I had to decide, no? One possibility was to stop for a while and recover my body.

"And the other was to change drastically my attitude and my mentality to play the next couple of weeks."

He chose the latter and downed beat Novak Djokovic in the Rome final, paving the way for another successful Paris tilt.

Now within two majors of catching Federer (20), Nadal dismissed ideas of chasing down the Swiss.

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand against Dominic Thiem of Austria during Day fifteen of the 2019 French Open. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand against Dominic Thiem of Austria during Day fifteen of the 2019 French Open. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

"I am not very worried about this stuff, no?" Nadal said.

"You can't be frustrated all the time because the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a bigger TV or better garden. That's not the way that I see life."

Nadal stands alone at the peaks of grand slam tennis after vaulting into history as the only player - man or woman - to win the same major 12 times.

The Roland Garros victory follows those in 2005-08, 2010-14 and 2017, delivering the left-hander his 18th major along with two Wimbledon and US Open titles and a sole Australian crown.

Previously tied with Margaret Court, who owns 11 Australian titles, Nadal now holds the record outright.

 

Nadal by the Numbers at the French Open

Titles: 12 - 2005-08, 2010-14, 2017-19

Roland Garros win-loss: 93-2 (lost to Robin Soderling in '09 and Novak Djokovic '15)

Sets win-loss in French finals: 42-6

Losing finalists - Mariano Puerta ('05), Roger Federer ('06-08, '11), Robin Soderling ('10), Novak Djokovic ('12, '14), Stan Wawrinka ('17) and Dominic Thiem ('18-19).

First player in history to win the same grand slam title 12 times.

Career win-loss: 950-194

Claycourt win-loss: 436-39

Titles: 82

Claycourt titles: 59 (next best - Guillermo Vilas, 49)

Grand slam finals record: 18-8

Men's grand slam title leaders

20 - Roger Federer

18 - Rafael Nadal

15 - Novak Djokovic

14 - Pete Sampras

12 - Roy Emerson

11 - Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver

News Corp Australia


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