"You are such an amazing champion, such a legend for our sport. It's amazing--12 times here. It's unreal. I will try again next year," Dominic Thiem reassured Rafael Nadal upon his losing to him in the French Open final 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-1.
It was truly a headshaking championship round as Thiem tried breaking the 'King of Clay' He had seen a small window of hope when he grabbed that second set 7-5 off him, but couldn't succeed with the rest. "Keep going, you will win this, for sure," Rafa gave encouraging words to his struggling opponent.
But Thiem knows that it proved a desperate situation, no telling how next year will wind up but his moment for glory was gone. Nadal's road to this point wasn't so easy at all. He had many retirements and questioned his own physical stability when injures pounced on him.
It was a desperate cry as he had to withdraw hours before the semifinal round opposite Roger Federer at Indian Wells. The situation was a nagging knee injury that threw him a curve before the match. "I warm up today in the morning and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete," he told the press.
But he always remained hopeful saying "I don't have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo." He did well there and made it to the semifinals where he was dismantled by Italy's Fabio Fognini in straight sets.
Barcelona was another test but Nadal had gotten lost to a swifter more conniving Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-4. The Spaniard had begun to feel down emotionally when the same thing happened in Madrid with his falling to the feisty Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis with three gruelling sets.
But it was in Rome that he started really getting his 'mojo' back and defeated the clever Novak Djokovic in three sets earning his 9th Italian Open title. It was here though at the French that he was on a warpath and determined to make the naysayers quiet their mouths and the fans to open theirs in joy, happiness and applause.
It might have been the worst of times throughout the season when ailments and injuries struck, but these are the best of times now when he was relieved to be able to defeat David Goffin, Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer and then Dominic Thiem, the big hitters of the game.
Thiem tried but it was barely a day that the Austrian had demolished Novak Djokovic's game to go opposite Nadal for the title. He did very well with those blasting groundstrokes, dynamic one-handed backhands and clever, cheeky angled rallies.
But not only the match, but the entire French Open appeared to have Rafael Nadal's name written on it with no one able to reach for the eraser. The Spaniard had the answer for most of Thiem's rallies and there was no turning back.
Nadal also had the answer at the press conference saying "..small things that I have been improving every single day, I'm doing with the right passion that's the only way for me to be back where I am today."