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It also intensified the headache facing tennis' highly-rated but woefully under-performing next generation. You don't enter a dog-fight against Nadal and emerge victorious. Or Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for that matter?

Thiem, 24, is making his Grand Slam final debut, while Nadal, 32, is vying for his 17th Grand Slam title and 11th French Open.

The tears that welled up when Nadal received the Coupe des Mousquetaires from Australian great Ken Rosewall showed just how much he still cares.

Nadal's form never wavered, though, and soon enough he was celebrating his 17th Grand Slam title overall, second among men only to Roger Federer's 20.

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He set his jaw and stared off into space, downcast, as the love poured down for Nadal after the match, but managed a smile when Nadal predicted he would win a championship here.

The French Open is not Nadal's home slam, but it might as well be.

Such is their dominance that former world number one Marat Safin, a two-time major victor, told reporters at the French Open that he would not be surprised to see Nadal and Federer "play until they are 40".

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It is common knowledge that the lower-bouncing ball on grass puts extra strain on the knees that have bothered him at times throughout his career.

According to Italian website Sportsenators.it, discussions between casual wear manufacturer Uniqlo and Federer "could be well advanced, even concluded", with the Japanese brand apparently prepared to pay Federer US$30 million over the next ten years, even after the 36-year-old has stopped playing.

You can't fight against the age and you can't fight against the watch. "I'm just gonna keep fighting for things and that's it", he commented. "I'm just trying to keep enjoying, and I'm gonna keep playing until my body resists, and my happiness is still high playing tennis", he said. I feel very lucky to all of the things that have happened to me.

German footballer Mario Gotze - who is not in Russian Federation with the national team but who scored the winning goal for his team in the final in Brazil four years ago - also paid tribute to Nadal.

Slow starts have plagued Nadal in several of his matches this fortnight, most notably against 11th seed Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. He's a good friend, one of these players that the tour needs. "I can't be always thinking of more". "I expected Rafa to win the French - not taking anything away from him".

The Spaniard edged an intense opening set, tightening his grip in the second. For me, you know, if you tell me seven, eight years ago that I will be here [at] 32 years old having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something nearly impossible, but here we are. I was a little bit scared.

"That's my biggest goal, to get into the next one and then to do it better than today", he said. He is also assured of keeping his number one ranking for good measure.

The Spaniard was presented with a special gift, a handprint with 11 fingers. "I don't know", Toni Nadal said.


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