Rafael Nadal described his performance at the French Open a year ago, when he didn't surrender a set, as "perfect".
Sunday marked the first time Nadal had faced a player from a younger tennis generation in a Grand Slam final.
Thiem was on the couch, watching on TV, in 2005, when Nadal earned his first Grand Slam trophy in Paris at age 19.
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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.
"If you tell me seven, eight years ago that I will be here. having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something nearly impossible", Nadal said.
Nadal entered Sunday's final 85-2 lifetime at Roland Garros, and that fact alone put Thiem in a precarious position before the proceedings even got underway.
"When someone wins 11 times here, for me it's unbelievable", he told reporters. "What you did and what you are doing is the most outstanding thing that any athlete can achieve in sport". In those 10 finals, Nadal has dropped just six sets but at no stage in the final on Sunday did it look like the number could rise further. He persists at his punishing physicality and pounding shots even 13 long and grinding years after the wonder from the Spanish island of Mallorca debuted at Roland Garros with sleeveless shirts, clam-digger shorts, shoulder-length hair and MMA muscles, and, two days after his 19th birthday, won his first title and said, "I fight every point, every point, no?" He took the biggest of big cuts on groundstrokes, his feet leaving the ground as he threw his whole body into them, as if the very outcome - not of any individual point, but the whole shebang - depended on the strength of that one whip of his white racket.
It worked. For a bit.
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"Tough moment", Nadal would say later.
Until 4-all, 15-all in the opening set, to be precise. The Spaniard would save just one breakpoint on his way to the business end of the set, where Thiem - serving 5-4 down - reeled off four enforced errors in a row to hand Nadal the set. A forehand wide. A forehand into the net.
By then, Nadal was finding his spots.
"It's wonderful now, I can't describe my feelings", a sweat-soaked Nadal told the crowd. This, though, is Nadal's court, the place he has dominated like no other.
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