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Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

How many more French Open titles will 'superhuman' Nadal win?

How many more French Open titles will 'superhuman' Nadal win?

Playing the king of clay at the French Open is akin to scaling Mont Blanc without any ropes and even an intrepid adventurer from Europe's Alpine heartland found it a peak too steep as Rafael Nadal claimed an 11th title on Sunday. For most of his straight-set win over Dominic Thiem in the Roland Garros final, he did just that.

Having just turned 32 years old, Rafael Nadal is unlikely to win 20 French Opens.

A break in the second set, two more in the third, and suddenly Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title. "I am sure you'll win here in the next couple of years", he said.

Nadal called on the trainer to get his forearms massaged twice in the final set but even that problem failed to improve Thiem's chances of emulating fellow Austrian Thomas Muster's 1995 triumph. "I hope to see you again next year".

Nadal's 17th major title inevitably brought questions about his ultimate career goals. "I happy that other people have things, and I am very satisfied, and I feel very lucky with all the things that happened to me", Nadal added.

"Sometimes, I see many, many players - even good players, top players - they go on the court against Rafa on clay, or Roger on hard court or any other surface, and you can nearly see that they don't really believe 100 percent that they can win", said Robin Soderling, who pulled off French Open upsets of Nadal in 2009, and Federer in 2010.

He also let four match points go at 5-2 but he would not be denied, as Thiem went long with a backhand on the fifth.

Plus, consider this: Coco Gauff, a 14-year-old from Florida, beat Caty McNally, a 16-year-old from OH, in the junior final, the fourth time at the last five Grand Slam tournaments that two Americans played each other for the girls' title.

"Rafa, I just want to say "well done", he said at the post-match presentation. But from 4-all in the opening set, Nadal grabbed five games in a row and was in charge.

Unlike previous year - when those first few games realistically settled matters - Thiem bounced back, breaking straight away. 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.

Until 4-all, 15-all in the opening set, to be precise. Once you play timidly all the good practice was for nothing and your good game is gone.

In a 10-minute second game of the second set, Thiem suffered more trauma. He continued to pummel his ground strokes to further inflict woe on Thiem.

Nadal is now the first player in the Open Era, male or female, to win the same Grand Slam tournament 11 times, a feat that has been dubbed La Undécima, after Real Madrid's bid to win an 11th European Cup. 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.

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