Federer eyes top-spot return in Stuttgart

Federer eyes top-spot return in Stuttgart

Federer eyes top-spot return in Stuttgart

But how about 15?

"The good thing is I played a lot of good matches this clay-court season", ATP quoted Nadal as saying.

The victor of the Stuttgart Open won't be getting a bus home.

But those are not quite the same as the French Open, where Nadal is 86-2 for his career.

"Memories are forever, and I have incredible memories of this event", Nadal told reporters. "I want to break that as well".

By 15, he had turned professional and, two years later, won his first match against Federer.

He now has three grand slam titles since turning 30.

"It's not always that easy, especially on grass", Federer said on his return.

Thiem already suffered four double faults despite four aces at the start of the second set, while Nadal maintained all of his serves in the second set to move a step further at 6-3. But Nadal himself wasn't too bothered.

Anyway, hope that catches you up: Welcome back. You can't live with that feeling. "You have to do your way".

Tennis is lucky to have Nadal.

Thiem was 11 at the time.

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It is that forthright modesty which endears Nadal to his legion of fans as is his respect for opponents, never forgetting to applaud every vanquished foe off court. The best bet is the under 2.5 sets. It added more voices by the time 2008 rolled around.

Nadal needed treatment in the fourth game of the third set for a finger injury before sealing victory on a fifth match point when Thiem fired a backhand long.

Shortly, he'd be holding the silver trophy, the one he knows so well, and crying. Despite wracking up one title after another in Paris, it clearly still means plenty to the world No. 1.

Just as happy fishing or playing golf in Mallorca, Nadal is ruthless on the tennis court but disarmingly humble off it.

"There is a reason why he won 11 times here", said Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian appearing in his first major final.

"It was a special thing for me to play the first Slam finals". But that's the best-of-three sets and in different, faster conditions. "I can't be always thinking of more".

Fast-forward almost two decades and Nike have been on court with the soon-to-be 37-year-old for every one of his record 20 Grand Slam successes and back catalogue of other glories, becoming synonymous with a sporting great who boasts the same kind of commercial power as Michael Jordan and his Air Jordan shoe and David Beckham and his long-term association with adidas.

"(But) he could come here, practice a week, maybe lose first round. His lead was reminiscent of their semifinal at the French Open previous year, when Nadal also held the early advantage.

"I am sure you will win here in the next couple of years", Nadal told Thiem afterward. Overall, the tally was a mere 58 percent. "In general, it was - game wise - a good game". He didn't look meek or cowed, just frustrated when he missed chances to make minor headway.

Thiem didn't think that loose game to end the first set was as crucial as it might seemed to everyone else.

He still occasionally inconvenienced the reigning champion, not least when a deft drop shot brought up a point to break back at 2-4.

The conditions might have contributed to the cramping that affected Nadal about two hours into the final.

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