Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem to win 12th French Open title

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Rafael Nadal kept his iron grip on the Coupe des Mousquetaires by beating Dominic Thiem in four sets to win a 12th French Open title.

It was a repeat of last year’s final and, although Thiem managed to win a set this time, he was unable to join Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic as the only men to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, going down 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1.

Nadal now stands on his own as the most successful singles player, male or female, at a single grand slam having moved clear of the 11 titles won by Margaret Court at the Australian Open.

His 18th slam title overall, meanwhile, means for the first time he has closed to within two of his great rival Roger Federer, whose all-time men’s record of 20 titles appears increasingly within reach for either Nadal or Djokovic.

Thiem was trying to do what only Stan Wawrinka has managed by beating Djokovic and Nadal at the same slam, and Wawrinka did not do it back-to-back.

As if he did not have the odds against him enough already, the Austrian was also playing for the fourth day in a row after his epic two-day semi-final win over Djokovic, while Nadal had had a day off either side of a comfortable semi-final win over Roger Federer.

Thiem knows how it feels to beat Nadal on clay, having done so in each of the last four seasons, but only in best-of-three-set matches.

The first seven games were a physical war, both men growling and pummelling the ball back across the net with ever increasing vigour.

Thiem struck first with a break for 3-2, being rewarded for his aggressive play, but Nadal hit straight back and the crunch moment of the set came when he held after an epic seventh game.

Thiem threw everything in his armoury at Nadal, fizzing in backhands and covering every inch of Philippe Chatrier’s clay, but it was not enough.

It was no surprise to see Thiem fail to hold his serve in the next game, and Nadal served out the set to put himself in a position from where he had never lost a match at Roland Garros.

It could have been deflating for his opponent, but Thiem put some extra oomph on his serve, closed in on the baseline and got the easy points he so desperately needed.

Nadal was holding even more comfortably on his serve, dropping just one point in the first five games of the second set.

But in the sixth game, two unexpected unforced errors from Nadal showed that even the best are not immune to nerves.

Thiem read the situation brilliantly, keeping Nadal deep and making him do the work, and he got his reward with a break to take the set.

Just winning a set against Nadal here is a significant achievement, but the job was nowhere near done for Thiem and the mountain he still had to climb quickly became clear.

A poor opening game of the third set from Thiem set the tone, and in no time the 25-year-old was 4-0 down having won just a single point.

He at least got on the board, but it appeared the Austrian had given everything he had and his movement became increasingly laboured.

He roused himself again at the start of the third set but was unable to take break point opportunities in either the first or third games and found himself 3-0 down.

He did superbly to recover from 0-40 to hold serve in the next game, but that turned out to be a last stand as Nadal wrapped up victory after three hours and one minute.

The 33-year-old fell flat on the clay as Thiem’s final shot landed just beyond the baseline, the king of Roland Garros once more.

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Thiem beats Djokovic in five sets to reach French Open final

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Dominic Thiem produced a stunning upset over Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals to end the world number oneโ€™s hopes of holding all four grand slam titles.

Djokovic had made repeating the feat, which he achieved with his first title at Roland Garros in 2016, a huge target but Thiem cemented his status as the heir apparent to Rafael Nadal on clay with a dramatic 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5 victory.

A roller-coaster of a fifth set, which included a rain break, saw Thiem miss two match points serving at 5-3 before eventually clinching it on his third chance.

Djokovic was a lot more focused at the restart, with conditions better but still cool and breezy, forcing Thiem to string exceptional shots together just to win points.

The Austrian fourth seed, who had led 3-1 in the third set when play was called off on Friday, will take on Nadal on Sunday in a repeat of last yearโ€™s final.

He was comfortably beaten in straight sets 12 months ago but is improving all the time and defeated Nadal on clay for a fourth successive season in Barcelona in April.

The 25-year-old had undoubtedly been in the ascendancy on Friday evening, with Djokovic allowing the windy conditions to get into his head.

The world number oneโ€™s haste to leave the court led to speculation he had forced the tournament refereeโ€™s hand in cancelling play when it was not actually raining, but officials insisted it was the stormy conditions that prompted the questionable decision.

Djokovic was a lot more focused at the restart, with conditions better but still cool and breezy, forcing Thiem to string exceptional shots together just to win points.

The pressure told as Djokovic retrieved the break, levelling at 4-4, and he threatened another break in the next game. Thiem enjoyed a large slice of luck as, after failing to put away two smashes, his volley dropped dead off the top of the net.

That seemed to swing the momentum and, at 5-6, the magnitude of what was at stake appeared to affect Djokovic.

He did not take kindly to a time violation at 15-15 and bizarrely began rushing to the net, which Thiem finally exploited on his fourth set point.

Djokovic received another warning, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct, and made sure the umpire knew exactly what he thought of the time violation at the change of ends.

A break of serve for 2-1 got Djokovic off on the right foot in the fourth set only for Thiem to break back with an outrageous net cord, the ball spinning up off the tape and over the top seedโ€™s head.

A third straight break gave Djokovic the advantage once more but both men were finding it difficult to hold serve into the wind and the Austrian levelled again at 4-4.

Thiem was a game away at 5-4 but showed a chink of fallibility at just the wrong time, double-faulting to give away a break, which allowed Djokovic to serve out the set.

The momentum seemed to be with the Serbian but Thiem did well to grind out a hold for 2-1 and got his reward with a break in the next game as Djokovic, who was still strangely choosing to come to the net a lot of the time, netted a volley.

The top seed was on the ropes having just saved a break point at 1-4 when a sudden, sharp shower came to his rescue.

After a delay of an hour โ€“ meaning a knock-on delay for the womenโ€™s final โ€“ the players returned, and Djokovic looked like he had repaired the damage, saving a second break point and then getting back on serve at 3-4.

But the edginess that had been evident throughout returned in an awful service game from the top seed, giving Thiem the chance to serve for the match.

The Austrian looked like he had it at 40-15 only to play four dreadful points, allowing victory to slip from his grasp.

Djokovic levelled at 5-5 but serving into the wind he once again faltered and a netted forehand brought up a third match point, which Thiem took with a forehand winner.

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Djokovic pleased to progress on a 'challenging' day at French Open

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Novak Djokovic was hot and bothered for a time by Salvatore Caruso before moving through to the fourth round of the French Open.

With temperatures in the high 20s after a generally cool and cloudy week, Djokovic did not look comfortable for much of his 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Italian qualifier Caruso, which was much tougher than the score suggested.

“It was a different day in terms of conditions,” said Djokovic. “It was challenging. Obviously the ball was bouncing differently. In these kind of warmer conditions, the play changes a bit.

“Caruso was very motivated. I thought he stepped into the court having a clear game plan. I kind of stepped it up a little bit. I feel like I took my game to a different level.”

Djokovic will next face unseeded German Jan-Lennard Struff, who reached the fourth round at a grand slam for the first time with a five-set win over 13th seed Borna Coric – the fifth set going to 11-9.

Alexander Zverev took the scenic route once again before beating Dusan Lajovic 6-4 6-2 4-6 1-6 6-2.

Of the eight matches the German has played here the last two years, five have gone the distance.

“They didn’t explain me the rules of five sets yet, so somebody needs to tell me I don’t necessarily need to play five sets every time I step on the court,” joked Zverev.

It has been a challenging season so far for the fifth seed, who has long been talked about as the leader of the next generation but has only reached one grand slam quarter-final.

Stefanos Tsitsipas bettered that by defeating Roger Federer and making the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and Zverev, who next faces in-form ninth seed Fabio Fognini, is happy to fly a bit more under the radar this time.

“I think I have been talked about less, which is a very nice thing,” he said. “People talk about obviously Rafa, Novak, and all those guys, but Tsitsipas, much, much more. He deserves to have a lot of credit.”

Tsitsipas is also through to the fourth round but it has not been easy for the 20-year-old Greek either.

His third-round encounter with Filip Krajinovic had been called off because of darkness on Friday night with Tsitsipas two sets up and at 5-5 in the third.

Serbian Krajinovic took the third-set tie-break on the resumption and had a set point to force a decider but Tsitsipas scraped through 7-5 6-3 6-7 (5) 7-6 (6).

Next for the sixth seed is a tasty-looking encounter with 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka, who finished off his own delayed clash with Grigor Dimitrov, coming from 6-2 down to win the third-set tie-break and the match 7-6 (5) 7-6 (4) 7-6 (8).

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem was a 6-4 3-6 6-2 7-5 winner over Pablo Cuevas and next takes on Gael Monfils, the only man apart from Djokovic and Roger Federer who is yet to drop a set.

The other fourth-round clash in the top half will pit eighth seed Juan Martin Del Potro against 10th seed Karen Khachanov.

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