French Open final: Rafael Nadal vs

Lynette Rowe
June 12, 2018

Nadal hails his 11th French Open title as "just incredible" despite a worrying injury scare in the closing stages of the final.

"It's the same old refrain with Rafael Nadal but there's two things I keep on hearing in analysis about beating him".

"I think for me it is very important today, because I playing against Dominic". In this tournament, Nadal's only lost one set.

This was about Nadal, the pride of Spain, trying to do his postmatch interview in French. We evaluate three data points here: Grand Slams participated in (including Qualifiers), Finals appearances, and Championships. He looks like he is nearly back to his best this season having picked up two titles, which includes winning his first Masters Series title with a three set win over Federer at Indian Wells.

In the first all-American Roland Garros semi-final since 2002, the 10th-seeded Stephens stayed composed throughout as Keys, who has not won a set against her in three meetings, peppered the court with unforced errors.

When previewing this French Open - tipping Dominic Thiem at [14.00] - I wrote that Nadal was no certainty, and that, if looking only at their clay court form, Nadal should be a [1.55]-shot to beat the improving upstart, were they to meet. After holding there, Nadal broke del Potro to take that set and was on his way, taking 14 of the past 17 games.

"When (Thiem) is dominating the point, he is very risky".

The reason I limit the question to the Open Era is two-fold; one, the lack of opportunity in the Amateur Era and two, the lack of historical data for a lot of players of the past.

Both played superbly - and both had chances to end it. Thiem went ahead 6-3, but wasted three set points there, including a bad volley into the net at 6-4 that left him chewing ruefully on his left index finger.

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This was the No. 5-seeded del Potro's first semifinal at Roland Garros since 2009. Stephens won last year's U.S. Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals. "Best of five is also different story", said Thiem.

By the absurd standards Nadal has set here, even facing those break points amount to a lapse, as does the opening set he dropped to the terrier-like Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals.

And on the penultimate point of the semifinal, after being run ragged, the 2009 US Open victor could only offer up a smile. "It was like a new match after the first set".

On the other hand, del Potro also was involved in a rain-marred quarter-final against third seed Marin Cilic over the last two days.

Thiem had too much, though, battling to take the first two sets and then cruising through the third to earn his shot at the title. "But I'm also aware that here it's tougher", said Thiem, the first Austrian in a major final since Thomas Muster won in Paris in 1995. "I really believe that I am fit enough and ready to hold".

The smile never left her face.

Victory on Sunday will give Nadal an 11th title in Paris and equal Margaret Court's all-time record for wins at the same Slam event - in her case, the Australian Open from 1960 and 1973.

He concluded, however, by saying: "It's not easy".

Del Potro said resuming a match at 5-5 in a tiebreak with his serve to come had been a unusual situation but his aim was true and he moved 6-5 ahead before his cagey backhand slice induced a poor forehand error by Cilic. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert.

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