Nadal battles through cramp to claim French Open crown

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Nadal dealt with that ultimately minor inconvenience and claimed his record-extending 11th French Open championship Sunday by displaying his foe-rattling excellence in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem. The trainer massaged Nadal's forearms twice but it was still not good enough to halt the Spaniard and the job was complete when Thiem's backhand sailed long.

When he was recovering from injury this year, for the umpteenth time in his career, he was focused on this title and nothing - certainly not Dominic Thiem - was going to stand in his way.

As the sound of Nadal's ball-striking groans echoing through Court Philippe Chatrier has become one of the melodic fixtures of Paris, he has won the French Open more than anybody has won anything among the four coveted majors, with the exception of Margaret Court's 11 Australian Open titles, four won during the Open Era that began in 1968.

Nadal beat the Austrian 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in a match the he dominated from the very start.

Taking on Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is a whole other challenge. After Nadal held there for 5-4, Thiem basically handed over the next game - and the set - by making four mistakes in a row.

The 21-year-old became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win three successive titles at Roland Garros.

It was more of the same in the second, as Nadal won the opening three games in quick time to take a commanding lead he would never relinquish.

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Nadal threw his arms skywards and turned to his entourage including coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya and his uncle Toni who stood down from his coaching role a year ago after his nephew worn his 10th French crown.

Thiem was on the couch, watching on TV, in 2005, when Nadal earned his first Grand Slam trophy in Paris at age 19.

Nadal struck 26 winners to Thiem's 34 yet made only 24 unforced errors to Thiem's 42, with "unforced errors" a relative term in Nadal Roland Garros matches.

It was a match told in break points. A forehand wide. A forehand into the net.

Why? Nadal was 95-0 when capturing the opener on clay in the best of five format. One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline and Thiem's shoulders sagged as he muttered to himself. Midway through the opening set, Nadal's aqua T-shirt was so soaked with sweat it stuck to him, so he changed into a fresh one at a changeover, drawing catcalls from spectators.

The punishment continued, with Thiem by now looking up to his coach and shrugging as another forehand whistled past him.

The conditions might have contributed to the cramping that affected Nadal about two hours into the final. It was his best performance of the fortnight, as Nadal confirmed on court, just when he needed it most.

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