'Rafael Nadal was too strong in my first Major finals,' says Dominic Thiem

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'Rafael Nadal was too strong in my first Major finals,' says Dominic Thiem

After losing the opening three Major finals, Dominic Thiem claimed the title at the US Open a year ago following a thrilling victory over Alexander Zverev. Reviving his first Major final, Thiem admitted that Rafael Nadal was too strong for him at Roland Garros 2018, describing that clash as one of his toughest challenges in a career.

The young Austrian battled past Novak Djokovic in the semis and set the ultimate clash with the ten-time champion in Paris. It proved to be a mission impossible for Dominic, as Rafa clinched a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 triumph in two hours and 43 minutes to defend the title.

It was the 11th Roland Garros crown for Rafa in 14 appearances and his 17th Major title, trailing three behind Roger Federer. Thiem was the only player who defeated Rafa on clay in 2017 and 2018, but he failed to deliver another upset on the most significant scene, unable to match Nadal's pace and fight for the first Major trophy.

In his first Major final, Dominic Thiem lost to Rafael Nadal in Paris 2018.

The Spaniard served at 68% and was rock-solid in his games, dominating the first serve and keeping the second safe enough to face just three break points in the entire clash, getting broken once.

Nadal had more winners than unforced errors, controlling the pace and forcing Thiem to go for risky shots and lines, which drew over 40 unforced errors. Dominic served below 60% and had to play against 17 break chances, putting even more significant pressure on his shoulders in the most important match of his career.

Nadal converted five of those, more than enough to seal the deal in straight sets after having the upper hand from the baseline and finding an open space to land his reliable and tamed groundstrokes. The same rivals would meet in the final in Paris a year later, too, with Nadal winning another title to extend his dominance.

"I had no chances against Rafael Nadal in my first Major final, I have to admit that. That match is probably the biggest challenge I've ever had in my sports career, as we all know what Rafa is capable of achieving in Paris," Dominic Thiem said.