Rafael Nadal claims record-extending 11th French Open crown

Playing the King of Clay at the French Open is akin to scaling Mont Blanc without ropes and even an intrepid adventurer from Europe's Alpine heartland found it a peak too steep as Rafael Nadal stormed to an 11th title on Sunday.

He led by two sets plus a break early in the third, when the middle finger on his racket-wielding left hand was cramping so badly he couldn't straighten it.

There was late anxiety for Nadal as the predicted thunderstorms loomed and he needed his left forearm massaged after beginning to suffer from cramp.

Thirteen years and 17 Grand Slam titles along, with Nadal aged 32 years and one week, still, nobody has ever said anything any truer.

Sunday's victory guaranteed that he will remain No. 1 in the rankings.

Dominic Thiem is the only man who has gotten the better of him on clay in the last two years.

Rafael Nadal celebrates after victory over Dominic Thiem to win the French Open.

But it ultimately proved a futile mission as, just like in all but two of Nadal's previous 87 matches here, the relentless Spaniard proved insurmountable, winning 6-4 6-3 6-2.

Taking on Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is a whole other challenge.

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That scenario loomed again with Nadal going to 2-0 in the second set on a fifth break point as Thiem fired another backhand wide.

Nadal, however, turned the screw in the 10th game and Thiem seemed to grow nervous, sending a forehand long to hand his opponent the opening set.

"When he won here the first four or five times, I was always watching it".

The number of titles won by Nadal on clay, extending his lead at the top of the men's Open Era leaderboard, ahead of Vilas (49) and Austria's Thomas Muster (40). A volley into the net. Midway through the opening set, Nadal's aqua T-shirt was so soaked with sweat it stuck to him.

But once a competive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal's "undecima" never looked in any doubt. One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline and Thiem's shoulders sagged as he muttered to himself.

The conditions might have contributed to the cramping that affected Nadal about two hours into the final.

"For me was scary, because I felt that I was not able to move the hand, the finger", Nadal said. After guzzling water during that break, Nadal felt better and was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.

"But if you win a Grand Slam tournament 11 times, one single one, then this is just very exceptional and awesome".

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