Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: The five ages of tennis's greatest rivalry

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: The five ages of tennis's greatest rivalry

So the big question is, can Thiem upset Nadal or will the King of Clay rule on his dirt?

It leaves Nadal just three adrift of the 20 grand slam titles won by Federer, who returns to action on the ATP Tour for the first time since March at the Stuttgart Open, having opted to skip the clay-court season for the second year running.

Rafael Nadal insists that he has no desire to become locked into an arms race with Roger Federer to surpass his great rival's 20 Grand Slam titles. "Dominic is a good friend, but I played my best match today, in the final".

Meanwhile, Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut won the men's doubles title, while Barbora Krejčiková and Kateřina Siniaková of the Czech Republic claimed the women's doubles title. Nadal was asked about equal pay in an interview with an Italian magazine, and he said he believes the players who generate more viewership should be paid more.

Tennis has been good for Nadal but he has been just as influential as a key driver of the sport's growth.

Slow starts have plagued Nadal in several of his matches this fortnight, most notably against 11th-Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. Thiem has won 7-5 6-3 and lost creditably 7-6 6-4 in Madrid, and won 6-4 6-3 in Rome.

Nadal had a brief moment of weakness in the first set, when the 24-year-old Austrian broke him in the third game.

The first set had taken 57 minutes, in stiflingly humid conditions, but there was to be no let-up for the underdog in the second.

Spain's Rafael Nadal was down a set and a break against the Argentinian Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.


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.

His picking at the rear of his shorts and mopping of his brow, aligned with his obsessive devotion to lining up his water bottles, are parts of the Nadal DNA.

Victory also took Nadal's record at Roland Garros to 86 wins and just two losses.

Seemingly cruising to victory, that's when Nadal called for the trainer, the second time he did it at the French Open mid-game.

He still occasionally inconvenienced the reigning champion, not least when a deft drop shot brought up a point to break back at 2-4.

A few hours earlier, as Nadal and Thiem warmed up, the booming voice of the announcer at Court Philippe Chatrier detailed the bona fides of both.

Thiem didn't think that loose game to end the first set was as crucial as it might seemed to everyone else.

Thiem climbed to a 1-0 edge, but Nadal fought to hold a 3-1 advantage.

Halep could have been forgiven if she had chose to give up on her Grand Slam dream throughout this painful process. For the last 14 years, he hasn't relented.

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