Rafael Nadal lifts record 11th French Open title

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Seventh seed Thiem arrived on a sultry Court Philippe Chatrier with three career wins over Nadal, all on clay, and in an absorbing first set lasting an hour showed why - going toe-to-toe in some ferocious rallies.

The wildest part of it all is that, even at 32, it doesn't look like Nadal will be slowing down at Roland Garros anytime soon. Thiem did force Nadal to save a breakpoint, but a less aggressive approach due to the mounting enforced errors meant there was little pressure on Nadal.

Nadal endured a nervy conclusion to the final, however, when he needed treatment in the fourth game of the final set for a finger injury before sealing victory on a fifth match point when Thiem fired a backhand long. His 11th title French Open deepened a Parisian habit both routine by now and unimaginable by anyone.

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.

Such is their dominance that former world number one Marat Safin, a two-time major victor, told reporters at the French Open that he would not be surprised to see Nadal and Federer "play until they are 40".

Following his French Open win past year, Nadal looked like setting up another SW19 final with Federer, only to crash out in the fourth round to Luxembourg's Gilles Muller in a five-set thriller. He caused a sensation in Rome previous year by handing the Spaniard the first defeat of his clay season. He played a great two weeks.

Congratulations Rafael Nadal, you are spectacular on all surfaces but superhuman when it comes to clay!

"Rafa, I just want to say well done", he said at the post-match presentation.

Nadal's incredible record in Paris now reads 86 wins and two defeats.

There were two tricks up Nadal's sleeve in Paris this year. He staved off 12 of 17 break points and converted one of three he earned. Like Nadal so often is.

Dominic Thiem of Austria was no match for the veteran, and the cramp was simply the latest in a significant string of fitness issues which have plagued Nadal over the course of the competition.

Having been there, done that so often, Nadal, meanwhile, followed the usual script to perfection.

Nadal's welling eyes during the trophy ceremony provided a moment of vulnerability after a match that had very few of them, apart from a freakish interlude in the third set when Nadal abruptly stopped mid-service game with a disconcerted expression and left the baseline to request medical attention for a cramping left hand. He reeled off the first six points for a 2-0 lead before Thiem settled and repaired the damage for 2-2. And the sun is far from setting on his clay empire.

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