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Long live the King of Clay! Nadal sees off Thiem to win record-extending 12th French Open title

Long live the King of Clay! Nadal sees off Thiem to win record-extending 12th French Open title
Spanish clay court king Rafael Nadal continued his undisputed reign as he beat Austria’s Dominic Thiem in four sets to claim a record-extending 12th French Open title at Roland-Garros.

Second seed Nadal saw off spirited resistance from Thiem before cracking the Austrian in a dominant third set and going on to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The victory hands 33-year-old Nadal his 18th Grand Slam title, putting him just two behind Swiss legend Roger Federer’s record haul of 20.

Sunday’s final in Paris was a repeat of last year’s match-up, and while 25-year-old Thiem managed to go one better by taking a set from his Spanish rival this time round, once Nadal stepped things up in a dominant third set the result was inevitable.

The pair traded some incredible shots in a blistering opening, breaking each other in the first set before Nadal claimed a decisive second breakthrough to take the set 6-3.

Play went with serve until deep into the second set, when Thiem forced a breakthrough to clinch the set 7-5 after a rare spate of unforced errors from Nadal – just the second set the Spaniard had dropped at this year’s tournament.

But the setback merely served to fire up Nadal, who broke the Austrian at the start of the third set before dictating proceedings to claim the set 6-1.

As play wore on, Nadal increasingly ground down his Austrian opponent, with Thiem having come through a grueling five-set semifinal against Novak Djokovic which only wrapped up on Saturday – meaning Nadal enjoyed  24 hours’ extra rest ahead of the final.

That began to tell as the Spaniard broke early in the fourth set, and although Thiem rallied to set up a break-back opportunity of his own, Nadal ruthlessly snuffed out the danger.

Thiem cotinued to battle valiantly but was powerless in the face of Nadal's onslaught as the Spaniard won the fourth set 6-1 to get his hands on La Coupe des Mousquetaires for the 12th time.    

With Nadal seemingly free from injury and playing some of his best tennis in a long time, Federer will be sitting nervously on his record Grand Slam haul as the players head to the grass court season and Wimbledon at the start of July.

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