Rafael Nadal: the ‘villain’ has become a hero in his own right

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

He began that quest Sunday, winning his record-extending 11th title on the clay at Roland Garros and 17th major overall with a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory over his spirited but ultimately vanquished challenger, Dominic Thiem.

Others - including United States former tennis great Billie Jean King and ex-male professional James Blake - praised Nadal's victory, which was dominant despite an injury scare with hand cramp in the latter stages of the third set.

"You can't be frustrated if somebody has more money than you, if somebody has a bigger house than you, if somebody has more Grand Slams than you", said Nadal, who will be top seed at Wimbledon.

Victory on Sunday moved Nadal to just three Slams behind his great rival Roger Federer who, at 36, is more than four years older. It added more voices by the time 2008 rolled around.

Thiem was hampered by his many unforced errors after long rallies.

Just like that, Nadal was off on a five-game burst to lead 3-0 in the second set.

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. "Dominic is an opponent who is very aggressive, very hard to play, with big shots".

This was Nadal's 11th win at the French Open, also known as Roland Garros.

While we have an edge here, I appreciate that backing a heavy odds-on shot isn't most people's cup of tea, so the game handicap should be a viable proposition.

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. The Austrian had trouble with the Nadal serve, and he gave up an easy hold.

But he shook off the early nerves and broke back in the third game with forehand winner-pumping his fists in the direction of coach Gunter Bresnik.

Thiem was considered the stiffest test for Nadal at the French Open and understandably so.

That was swatted away with Nadal's double-handed backhand, though, and the second set duly went the way of the favourite. The Spaniard saved all the six break points faced in the first set against Juan Martin del Potro.

American former player Pam Shriver: Bingo legs eleven Rafael Nadal.

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

The Spaniard officially withdrew before the start of his third-round match in 2016.

- Won the ATP newcomer of the year in 2003.

The trainer was called at 30-0 and his intervention appeared to alleviate Nadal's discomfort, who regained his composure, held his serve and then managed to break again in the sixth game before holding out for his 17th Grand Slam title.

Won the French Open on debut in 2005 and a year later beat Roger Federer in the final.

Thiem now needed to win three straight sets against Nadal on clay - and the lone person to do that was Djokovic in their 2015 quarterfinal.