Nadal and Federer continue to race against time

Jun 10 2018 Paris France Rafael Nadal poses with the trophy after his men's singles final against Dominic Thiem on day 15

Jun 10 2018 Paris France Rafael Nadal poses with the trophy after his men's singles final against Dominic Thiem on day 15

"There is a reason why he won 11 times here", said Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian appearing in his first major final.

"When he won here the first four or five times, I was always watching it". At one point finally, Thiem tried going around the post in the penultimate game, just after a Nadal cross-court backhand return seared so close over the net cord that it made the Parisians murmur.

Thiem, mixing heavy top-spin and flat groundstrokes and angling balls across the sidelines, saved a break point at 1-2 and two more at 2-3 and there were signs that Nadal was struggling with his timing as he framed several forehands. Nadal, however, soon recovered to complete the match.

The number of titles won by Nadal on clay, extending his lead at the top of the men's Open Era leaderboard, ahead of Vilas (49) and Austria's Thomas Muster (40).

With the two heavy favourites in the semi-finals winning, we have the final that most people during the latter stages would have wanted, Nadal v Thiem, and before I discuss the data in detail, I wanted to talk about their previous meetings a little more.

Rafael Nadal says he will speak with his team to decide on whether he will participate at Wimbledon next month following his 11th French Open win. He suffered one service break, in the third game of the match, which came as big news.

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But, at 4-5, Thiem's serve let him down badly, handing Nadal three set points.

Unfortunately for him, Thiem began the second set the same way he ended the first. One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline, leaving Thiem sagging his shoulders and muttering. The French Open statisticians are nicer than they should be, as all but one of Thiem's 19 errors in that stretch were unforced (officially, 12 were unforced and seven were forced).

Nadal earned another break early in the third set and looked to be home free to his 11th title from there. It clearly impacted his serve moving forward, but not his ground strokes.

Federer (9 at Halle, 8 at Basel) and Argentine clay-court legend Guillermo Vilas (8, Buenos Aires) are the male players with the next highest number of titles at a tournament below Grand Slam level.

Rafa Nadal said that he is not obsessed with Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slams. The two stars have combined to win the past six Slams. At the beginning of 2017, Federer held 17 Slams to Nadal's 14.

Slow starts have plagued Nadal in several of his matches this fortnight, most notably against 11th-Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. A few years ago, everyone thought he was done. Part of that probably can be traced to Serena Williams' 16-month absence from the sport's four most prestigious tournaments because she became a mother. He clearly isn't. For now, fans just watch and appreciate this unprecedented greatness for as long as they can.

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