Rafael Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the French Open by beating Austrian fourth seed Dominic Thiem in four sets to lift a 12th men’s singles title.

Rafael to win 12th French Open title

The Spaniard won for the third straight year at Roland Garros with a 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory in a high-quality final.

The 33-year-old is the first player to win 12 singles titles at the same Grand Slam and has now won 18 majors overall.

“I can’t explain what I’ve achieved and how I feel. It’s a dream,” said Nadal.

“To play for the first time in 2005 – I never thought in 2019 I’d still be here. It’s an incredible moment and very special for me.”

It leaves the left-hander two Grand Slam titles adrift of Switzerland’s Roger Federer, who he beat in the semi-finals, and three clear of Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic, whose bid to hold all four majors was ended by Thiem.

The second seed slid to the red dirt in triumph when he clinched victory on the second match point, lying behind the baseline with his arms outstretched as he contemplated the magnitude of his achievement.

With clay plastered over his back, he clambered to his feet and took the acclaim of an enthralled Roland Garros crowd which has become accustomed to seeing him triumph.

Thiem, 25, suffered his second Grand Slam final defeat after losing in three sets to Nadal in last year’s final.

Thiem delivered a poor service game as Nadal broke to love, the Spaniard backing that up with a hold to love sealed with an exquisite stun volley that even prompted a thumbs up from the Austrian.

Nadal won the opening 11 points of the third and clinched the double break with a trademark forehand down the line, an exuberant quadruple fist-pump celebration along the baseline stressing its importance.

Thiem won just seven points in the third set before ending a miserable 30 minutes with another unforced error into the net.

He began to look weary in the fourth set – particularly mentally – and Nadal smelt blood.

The Spaniard moved into a 3-0 lead, after seeing off break points in his two service games, before breaking again for a 5-1 lead.

Although Thiem saved one match point, he could not prevent the inevitable and batted a Nadal serve long to spark jubilant celebrations from the Spaniard.