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12 June 2018, 10:29 | Anna Jefferson
Nadal insists passing Federer's 20 Slams not on agenda
Bizarrely, Nadal then halted playing in the fourth game complaining of pain in his left hand and stretching his middle finger.
"Tough moment", Nadal would say later.
"It's surprising because in 2017 I had gone for two years without winning a Grand Slam and I think he'd been without one since 2012, too", added Nadal. "I played a great match against a great player". "But in the end, it was not too hard". When Rafael Nadal broke down in tears on the Roland Garros podium on Sunday as 15,000 people, plus a smattering of Hollywood heavyweights, stood and honoured his staggering 11th French Open triumph, it was enough to make his desperate rivals weep.
"Of course I would love to have 20, like Roger, in the future - or even more", Nadal said Sunday evening after beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the final at Roland Garros, "but being honest, (it's) something that is not in my mind".
A gracious Thiem said afterwards: "I can still remember being 11 when (Nadal) won here for the first time and I watched on the TV". "It's definitely one of the best things somebody ever achieved in sport".
Having lost only twice in 87 matches in Paris since making his debut in 2005, Nadal was never going to let nerves get to him, and he powered through his opponent to remind tennis fans how privileged they are to have Nadal and Federer in the same era.
That's it. There is the history of the King of Clay's losses at the French Open. He added five straight from 2010 to '14 and now has two in a row. It was Nadal's 60th win in a row on clay.
His lead was reminiscent of their semifinal at the French Open previous year, when Nadal also held the early advantage.
Some wishful anticipation had been made of the fact that, 30 days prior, Thiem had beaten Nadal on the clay of Madrid, but Thiem reminded everyone Friday that the clay of Madrid is not the clay of Paris. Serving at less than 50%, Nadal got plenty of looks at second serves.
At 4-4 Nadal hit a second serve that bounced before it reached the net but he shrugged that off to hold. He took the biggest of big cuts on groundstrokes, his feet leaving the ground as he threw his whole body into them, as if the very outcome - not of any individual point, but the whole shebang - depended on the strength of that one whip of his white racket.
A wild, misguided forehand sealed his fate, one of 18 unforced errors to Nadal's 12 in the set.
It worked. For a bit.
After an early swap of service breaks in Paris, it was 4-all in the opening set.
On Sunday, Nadal will go up against Austria's Dominic Thiem, the eighth-ranked player in the world and someone who has defeated Nadal before. A forehand wide. A forehand into the net.
But Nadal held with some clever drop shots and after taking the second set it merely became a race against time to finish off Thiem before the rain arrived. Of those 20, the Spaniard only won one by hitting a victor.
But against Thiem, there was nothing wrong with Nadal's start.
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