Nadal dealt with that ultimately minor inconvenience and claimed his record-extending 11th French Open championship Sunday by displaying his foe-rattling excellence in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem.
Roger Federer admits "it's great to be back" as the Swiss great returns to the tennis scene in Stuttgart after missing the entire clay-court season.
However, he said: "I've had long and mentally tough clay-court season because I played nearly all the matches possible after coming from an injury".
Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the title at Roland Garros.
Perhaps. But under so much pressure from Nadal all afternoon, Thiem made mistakes that piled up.
Nadal remained implacable in the homestretch, intent on ignoring his temporarily impaired hand, outracing the rainclouds that hovered close and low but didn't erupt, and trying to outrun, outhit and outwit a player who was 11 years old when he won his first title here in 2005.
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He saved three break points in his first service game but a wayward backhand ensured Nadal took the fourth.
Nadal is 50-2 on the surface in that span.
Rafael Nadal's remarkable Roland Garros reign continued as the world number one clinched an 11th French Open title with a straight-sets win over Dominic Thiem on Sunday.
A well-disguised drop shot served him well at 30-40 down in game three but in opting for power soon afterwards he netted a forehand, affording Nadal another break chance that was gobbled up. I was very scared but that's sport, it was very humid. I didn't do that past year, losing to Tommy Haas in the first round having had match points.
Thiem was considered the stiffest test for Nadal at the French Open, and understandably so.
He has come close in Paris before, losing in the semifinals past year (to Nadal) and in 2016 (to Novak Djokovic).
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"If you tell me seven, eight years ago that I will be here, 32 years old, having this trophy with me again, I would tell you that is something nearly impossible, but here we are".
Just as happy fishing or playing golf in Mallorca, Nadal is ruthless on the tennis court but disarmingly humble off it.
"I know how to play against him".
"Let me enjoy this title", Nadal said with a smile.
"Still, I'm disappointed, of course".
"For sure, me, I'm confident that this was not my last Grand Slam final", Thiem said, "and that's my biggest goal: to get into the next one and then to do better than today". "It was just awful misses".
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