He is the king of Roland Garros.
The 32 year-old Rafael Nadal earned an incredible 11th French Open title Sunday when swatted away the challenge of Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-3 6-2 to continue his reign as the undisputed king of clay.
Nadal did this despite an outbreak of cramp in his left hand in the third set, which he managed to shake off, like everything else this fortnight.
Nadal said afterwards that he feared the worst when the cramp struck: ‘There was a tough moment in the third set, I was very very scared but that’s sport. Today was very humid against a player who pushed me to the limit.
‘I can’t describe my feelings. I played my best match of the tournament, it’s unbelievable and I’m very happy.’
Nadal wept after being handed the trophy by Australian legend Ken Rosewall – who won the inaugural French Open in 1968.
There was grunting and there was timewasting that was, again, overlooked by overgenerous umpiring, but ultimately there can be no arguing that he remains peerless when it comes to the brown dirt.
The younger challengers struggle to land a punch, and the last six men’s Grand Slam titles have now gone in the sequence of Federer-Nadal-Federer-Nadal-Federer-Nadal.
What price Federer continues it at Wimbledon five weeks today?
Nadal celebrated in relatively low key fashion, but then there is not much novelty value in this. And it was a seventeenth Major trophy overall.
Nadal came in looking slightly more vulnerable than he did last year, in which he lost only 35 games in claiming the title.
On a humid afternoon before a crowd peppered with celebrities from Zinedine Zidane to Hugh Grant he hardly showed signs of weakness, breaking immediately as his opponent got to grips with being in what was his first Grand Slam final.
The Austrian hit straight back to inflict an eleventh break of the tournament on the Spaniard as the first set became a mixture of brilliance and attrition, with the first seven games taking 45 minutes.
The match turned at 5-4 when, on the first point, Thiem missed a simple forehand volley. That seemed to unsettle him and he played poor game that culiminated in a wild backhand going long to give him the lead.
He broke again in the second game of the second set, which became a fairly routine affair. Like so many of the pretenders, Thiem just did not have quite the same level of consistency to derail the Spaniard, who ruthlessly targeted his flowing backhand.
Another feature was his ridiculously slow play when serving, almost always over the 25-second limit and sometimes going well into the thirties. Only in the seventh game did he get a warning from umpire Damien Dumusois, another example of weak officiating playing into his hands.
The Austrian is never one to hide his frustration, but then the sheer relentlessness of Nadal on clay would wear anyone down.
Once again Thiem looked in despair at his support box as he was broken in the third game. Only two players have ever come from two sets down to beat the Spaniard, and neither of those occasions was on his favourite surface.
A glimmer of hope was when the middle finger on his left hand started to cramp in the middle of the fourth game, causing him to take a salt tablet and have the strapping on his forearm to be removed, which is there to stop the sweat pouring onto his palms.
It turned out to be a false promise and running repairs from the physio allowed him to continue unhindered to victory in two hours and 42 minutes.