Rafael Nadal into French Open finals against Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal into French Open finals against Dominic Thiem

He has now also joined Federer and Novak Djokovic in passing the $100 million prize money barrier.

Despite conceding a 2-0 deficit so quickly, Thiem masterminded points in the following game by whipping rapid forehand winners to restore parity and kept the Spaniard at bay as he spotted some weaknesses in Nadal's stronghold. "I don't know", Toni Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have exchanged breaks of serve in a hard-fought start to the French Open final. The Austrian had trouble with the Nadal serve, and he gave up an easy hold.

A break in the second set, two more in the third, and suddenly Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title. "Now she can relax, go out there, let her game go", said her coach, Darren Cahill. Puerta was to later fail a drugs test and handed an eight-year ban, eventually reduced to two years.

Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza remained the WTA's top three, but French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens went from No 10 to a career-high No 4.

Thiem is contesting his first Grand Slam final. He's a good friend, one of these players that the tour needs. He lost the first set, then turned things around after a rain delay.

The Spaniard edged an intense opening set, tightening his grip in the second.

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He saved another two in the 11-minute sixth game, a performance cheered by the crowd who briefly became more animated when glum-looking French football icon Zinedine Zidane was spotted in the stadium. Thiem found some life and threatened with a break point in the seventh game, but Nadal broke his pace with a drop shot and finished it off with a passing shot, holding for 5-2. One down-the-line forehand victor landed right at the baseline, leaving Thiem sagging his shoulders and muttering.

While unpopular, Nadal's comments have resulted in more of a rekindling of an old debate rather than sparking a new one.

If Nadal wins, it will be his 11th French Open title and it will take him a step closer to arch-rival Roger Federer.

It also reignited the debate over who is actually the greatest player of all time even though the two men have shared the last six majors between them. At the beginning of 2017, Federer held 17 Slams to Nadal's 14.

Halep could have been forgiven if she had made a decision to give up on her Grand Slam dream throughout this painful process.

Over the best-of-five sets on clay in 13 years, Nadal improved to 111-2 - a figure nearly as imposing as the nearby Eiffel Tower - his lone reverses coming against Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015 at the French Open.

"Of course I would love to have 20, like Roger, in the future - or even more", Nadal said Sunday evening after beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the final at Roland Garros, "but being honest, (it's) something that is not in my mind". A few years ago, everyone thought he was done.

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