Dominic Thiem said Rafael Nadal played “unbelievable” tennis in the French Open final and is still getting better.
Rafael Nadal is continuing to improve despite his advancing years, according to defeated French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.
La Coupe des Mousquetaires was lifted by Nadal for a record-breaking 12th time – no other player has won a single grand slam as many times – on Sunday as he outmuscled Thiem 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 in a thrilling encounter on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Victory earned the Spaniard his 18th major title, just two shy of Roger Federer’s record haul in the men’s game.
Thiem was also beaten by Nadal in last year’s final and the Austrian thinks the ‘King of Clay’ is still managing to up his performance levels despite turning 33 this week.
Asked if Nadal is getting better, Thiem replied: “Yeah, sure. He also improves and develops his game. I mean, if he didn’t do that, for sure he wouldn’t have that success every year in this tournament.
“I think that we both got better compared to last year, so my goal is to improve even more until next year and come closer and closer.”
“I gave everything I had. I honestly love this tournament with all my heart.”
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 9, 2019
Thiem credited an aggressive approach for getting him back into the match but felt like he was “stepped on” by the left-hander in the last two sets.
“I think he played outstandingly, because especially in the first two sets I played very good tennis. What he was performing I think is unbelievable, really,” said Thiem.
“There has to be a reason why he’s that successful. I mean, he’s won 18 grand slams, which is a big number, only two less than Roger. So definitely he’s one of the greatest of all time. Today, as well, I saw why.
“I played very good the first two sets, and then I had a little drop, which is against most of the players not that bad, but he took the chance and stepped right on me. That’s it. I can only congratulate him on how amazing he performed.”
Thiem’s semi-final with world number one Novak Djokovic only finished on Saturday after being interrupted the previous day.
“I mean, it was a grand slam final, so I didn’t feel tired in the match,” he said. “But at the same time, a match like [Saturday], beating Novak over two days with all the interruptions, it leaves traces on the body and also on the mind. That’s 100 per cent.”