Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Rafael Nadal 'would love to have 20' like Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal 'would love to have 20' like Roger Federer

In 2007, he became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win a hat-trick of Roland Garros titles.

But it ultimately proved a futile mission as, just like in all but two of Nadal's previous 87 matches here, the relentless Spaniard proved insurmountable, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

The signs were already ominous for Thiem because in 112 best-of-five-set matches, Nadal had never lost after taking the first set. The clay of Paris is the clay of Nadal, who has fallen in victory six times to his back and thrice to his knees, plus the two occasions standing, winding up 10 times behind the baseline and one sprawled between the service boxes, living a single dream of many so very many times.

As his fallen rival, Dominic Thiem, pointed out during the trophy ceremony on Sunday that he was only 11 years old when a long-haired, baby-faced Nadal won his 2005 title.

Thiem now needed to win three straight sets against Nadal on clay - and the lone person to do that was Djokovic in their 2015 quarterfinal. But there was still something extraordinary, and new, about how Nadal added to his legend over the past fortnight in Paris.

"Life is never clear". Tennis is a very important part of my life, without doubt, but is not everything. I am not this kind of person. He pounded huge serves, topping 135 miles per hour (220 kph) about 25 miles per hour (40 kph) more than Nadal's fastest - and that translated into seven aces, but also five double-faults.

His idiosyncracies are just as charming to his supporters.

Sunday's victory took Nadal's grand slam total to 17, three behind Roger Federer.

So what happens when you pair these two greats of the game together in a doubles match?

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He won an under-12 regional crown at age eight and by 12 had captured Spanish and European age-group junior titles. On the first point, he missed a volley-it was not the easiest of volleys, but it was one that a top player should make-and everything snowballed from there.

The 36-year-old hasn't competed since the Miami Open back in March when he was suffered a surprise defeat to Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Thiem stayed with Nadal in the early going on a cloudy and steamy afternoon; the temperature was 77 degrees (24 Celsius), the humidity approached 70 percent.

And, of course, Nadal has owned the tournament that history will care about most: the French Open.

"If you told seven or eight years ago that I will be here at 32 years old having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something nearly impossible, but here we are", he said.

Knee injuries have taken a toll throughout his career, costing him nine Slam appearances, and after he failed to even reach a Slam semi-final in 2015 and 2016 some figured his greatest moments were behind him.

The victory also allowed the 32-year-old Nadal to hold onto the No. 1 ranking, just ahead of Federer.

The Spaniard now inches closer to Roger Federer's all-time record of 20 Grand Slam titles.

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