When he was crossing 30, not many believed that he could continue to play and dominate the Tennis at the highest level.
But yes, his playing style killed almost every part of his body. There were moments where Nadal was breaking down. His legs, his wrist, his back were all operated, one after another. He had to miss a lot of tournaments and seasons.
Even before coming into Roland Garros, he had vulnerabilities, he wasn’t at his best. Simply, he failed. He failed at his very favourite surface, clay. He was destroyed by the man who he was meeting on Sunday.
Thiem, on the other end, was yet to come out of the hangover he had with Djokovic which was more like a street fight, physically demanding. The wind had the game suspended a few times as well, and less than 24 hours, he had another challenge waiting for him, the biggest one against the man who ultimately owns the place.
Still, Thiem had all the license to be confident because he did beat Nadal at the Clay, and played the hell out of him recently.
Come Sunday, there was a different Nadal. His vulnerability was long gone, the old Nadal was back. His confidence was as loud as his neon Tees. Yet Thiem wasn’t giving in easily. He was playing his best possible tennis, stunned Nadal, but champions find a way they say and Nadal did. He won the first set.
Thiem suddenly brought the left-overs from the Djokovic’s match and looked predominantly perfect in the second set, eventually won it.
Hey, it’s Nadal. It’s the French Open. You cannot run away winning a set like that here, and that was the response from Nadal.
Nadal brought his A-game when it was needed. Thiem had his chances, but when it was needed, Nadal’s ferocious forehands and the topspin came to his rescue like it always does.
And in a whisker, Nadal closed out the next two sets.
The emotions were back, the love was back. The familiar scene at the Philippe Chatrier as Nadal fell on his back, eyes closed with emotions, raised his arms in joy, hugged Thiem who was there to witness Nadal’s Triumph once again from the best seat possible, something he wouldn’t have wanted to, at least not from where he was.
As the Spanish National Anthem plays, Rafa was yet to realize that it wasn’t a dream. I mean, even he wouldn’t have dreamt of holding the trophy for the 12th time. He bites the trophy in joy, hugs, kisses the trophy and holds it tight like he never wants to let it go, and yes, he never really did except for two times.
Thiem watches it all while holding the other trophy, desperately wanting to go one step further. He has some nice words to say about Nadal and so is Nadal. The beautiful exchange stands out for the spirit of the game, yet Thiem hasn’t done yet. He is eight years younger than Nadal and he sure will be holding the trophy at least when Nadal retires.
Maybe not today. Maybe not the tomorrow or the next year but surely he will one day and that one day is not that far.
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