Paris: Rafael Nadal swept to an historic 12th Roland Garros title and 18th Grand Slam crown on Sunday with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Austria’s Dominic Thiem.
The 33-year-old Spaniard becomes the first player, man or woman, to win the same Slam 12 times after seeing off a brave challenge from a weary Thiem in a repeat of the 2018 final. Nadal is now just two behind Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 majors and three ahead of Novak Djokovic who was knocked out by Thiem in the semifinals.
The world number two also took his Paris record to an astonishing 93 wins and just two losses having previously won the title in 2005-2008, 2010-2014, 2017 and 2018.
Sunday’s triumph confirmed the ‘Big Three’ stranglehold on the Grand Slams.
It also gave Nadal an 82nd career title and 950th match win. In a 53-minute first set of brutal hitting and raw physicality, it was Thiem who broke first for a 3-2 lead.
But the 25-year-old’s joy was short-lived as Nadal retrieved the break in the sixth game before racing away with the next three games to pocket the opener. Thiem, who had beaten his opponent four times on clay in his career, failed to claim a single point off Nadal’s first five service games of the second set.
However, the Austrian pushed and pushed, forced Nadal into three rushed groundstrokes and, from nowhere, broke to take the second set.
It was the first set he had managed to take off Nadal at Roland Garros after three previous defeats. Nadal was riled by the insult.
He swept the first 10 points of the third set, carving out a double break for 3-0 before sweeping to a third break for the set. Thiem had played four successive days to reach Sunday’s final and the toll was slowly telling.
He wasted break points in the first and third games of the fourth set and Nadal pounced to stretch to 3-0. That was soon 5-1 and the barrage continued with Nadal taking the title on a second match point.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the organisers asked employees to fill empty corporate seats for Saturday’s men’s semifinal and start of the women’s final, demanding they stay ‘discreet’ and take off their accreditation once seated.
Seats and boxes set aside for officials and corporate sponsors are often empty on Roland Garros’s main Philippe Chatrier court around lunchtime, as they enjoy the hospitality.
The stadium was not full, for example, when Nadal and Roger Federer started their semifinal on Friday. Organisers said on Sunday that they were considering implementing an ‘overbooking’ system.
On Saturday, however, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) offered employees the chance to watch the action in unoccupied boxes.
“Because of the scheduling changes for tomorrow, June 8, the management of the tournament has the pleasure to authorise the employees of the FFT (black and grey badges) and their privies (white badge with black stripe) to access the boxes from 12pm to attend the end of the men’s semi-final and the start of the women’s final,” the FFT said in an email to employees, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
The French tennis federation (FFT) did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters.