AUSTRALIAN tennis legend Ken Rosewall has inadvertently sparked a storm with comments made about Dominic Thiem after the Austrianâ€™s loss to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final on Monday (AEST).
Eight-time grand slam champion Rosewall presented Nadal with his trophy â€” the 11th time the Spaniard has collected the main prize at Roland Garros â€” and delivered a blunt assessment of 24-year-old Thiemâ€™s â€śdisappointingâ€ť performance in a 4-6 3-6 2-6 defeat, which came in his first appearance in a grand slam final.
â€śThe match today, I think, like everybody, we would have liked to see a few more sets,â€ť Rosewall said. â€śThatâ€™s what happens in tennis.
â€śRafa was just a little bit too good and Dominic was a little bit disappointing in his own game today.â€ť
The 83-year-old was full of praise for Nadal, saying heâ€™s glad he didnâ€™t have to face the freakish left-hander on a surface which heâ€™s practically unbeatable on.
â€śIâ€™m very pleased Iâ€™m not playing today,â€ť Rosewall said. â€śThe players of today in the tour are exceptional athletes and tennis players. No words can express what we think about Rafaâ€™s game and what he has done for the game of tennis on a worldwide basis.
â€śWeâ€™ll see many young players coming on very soon.â€ť
Although not intended to be in any way demeaning, Rosewallâ€™s remarks about Thiem didnâ€™t go down too well with some in the tennis world who took offence to his verdict.
Tennis writer Ricky Dimon was scathing in his response to Rosewallâ€™s comments.
Writing for the Metro in the UK, George Bellashaw described Rosewallâ€™s assessment as â€śa bit harshâ€ť.
â€śGiven that Nadal has never lost a final at Roland Garros and that heâ€™s only been taken to five sets once on clay, Rosewallâ€™s comments can definitely be viewed as a bit harsh after a decent showing from the 24-year-old on his first appearance in a grand slam final,â€ť Bellashaw wrote.
Journalist Andrew Jerell Jones called the dig â€śheartlessâ€ť before saying everything else about Rosewallâ€™s appearance at Roland Garros was all class.
Others acknowledged Rosewallâ€™s brutal burn.
Thiem hailed Nadalâ€™s â€śawesomeâ€ť 11th French Open title after the match. He pushed Nadal hard early on but his spirit appeared crushed when the Spaniard won his service game to love to secure the first set, going on to win 6-4 6-3 6-2.
Dejected but gracious in defeat, Thiem told Nadal and the Philippe Chatrier court that his extended record for the most menâ€™s grand slam wins at any single tournament was â€śone of the most awesome things in sportâ€ť.
Thiem arrived in Paris in hot form, having picked up more Tour-level wins than any player in 2018 and beaten Nadal in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last month, snapping Nadalâ€™s 21-match winning streak and his run of 50 straight sets won on clay.
But beating an imperious Nadal at his favourite slam was too big an ask for the 24-year-old.
â€śTo me itâ€™s still been two great weeks,â€ť Thiem told the crowd and his opponent. â€śI still remember when you won here the first time in 2005. I was 11-years-old, watching it on TV and honestly I never expected that one day I would play the finals here so I am still really happy.â€ť
It was a match told in break points. Thiem broke the Spaniardâ€™s serve in the third game of the match, nullifying Nadalâ€™s early break but earned only one more break point â€” which was saved by Nadal.
Nadal was unrelenting against the Thiem serve, earning 17 break points and winning five as the Austrian sprayed 42 unforced errors during the match. After Nadal won the first, there was an air of inevitability.
â€śThank you to all of you. I love the tournament,â€ť Thiem told the crowd. â€śI hope soon I get another chance soon, maybe against you.â€ť
â€” with AAP