French Open final 2019 Nadal Thiem

French Open 2019 men’s singles key moments

On what should have been the eve of the 2020 French Open, tennishead looks back to an enthralling 2019 tournament and picks out the matches that decided who lifted the men’s singles trophy


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French Open Nadal Federer 2019 shake hands


Semi-final: Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-3 6-4 6-2

This was the first meeting at Roland-Garros of the sport’s two greatest rivals for eight years. Roger Federer, playing his first French Open since 2015, had come through a bruising four-set encounter with Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, though he had not faced any opponents ranked in the world’s top 25. Rafael Nadal had just crushed Kei Nishikori, the world No 7, for the loss of only five games.

Some expected this to be a closely-fought affair, but although the first two sets were tight Nadal eventually ran out a comfortable winner, as he had in all five of his previous meetings with Federer on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Federer had won their last five encounters, which had all been on hard courts, but once again the Swiss struggled to cope with Nadal’s huge forehands, hit with vicious top spin. Nadal, who handled the windy conditions better, broke Federer’s serve six times.

Federer’s best chance of turning the match around came when he led 2-0 at the start of the second set, but Nadal broke back immediately and went into a two-sets lead after breaking again in the ninth game. Federer, playing in what might prove to have been his last match at the French Open, dropped serve again in the third game of the third set before Nadal completed his victory in less than two and a half hours.


French Open Dominic Thiem 2019 forehand


Semi-final: Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5

Novak Djokovic was aiming to become the first man to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles on two separate occasions but the Serb’s run of 26 successive wins in Grand Slam matches was brought to an end in what he described as “hurricane conditions”.

The match began on Friday but was stopped once because of the wind and rain and was then called off for the day with Dominic Thiem leading 3-1 in the third set. The conditions were still challenging 24 hours later, with another rain break disrupting the final set. Djokovic, who had not hidden his displeasure at playing in such weather, appeared better focused on the resumption, but was in a tetchy mood throughout and was given two code violations, one for taking too long on serve and another for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In the final set Thiem served for the match at 5-3 and 40-15, only for Djokovic to break back. However, at 5-6 Djokovic again struggled serving into the wind and Thiem converted his third match point to reach the final for the second year in a row.

“When you’re playing in hurricane kind of conditions, it’s hard to perform your best,” Djokovic said afterwards. “I don’t want to point out some reasons or find excuses for this loss. He took it, he won it, and well done to him.”


French Open Rafa Nadal backhand


Final: Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1

Rafael Nadal became the first player of either sex to win 12 Grand Slam singles titles at the same tournament as he held off the challenge of Dominic Thiem for the second year in a row. In winning his 18th Grand Slam title the Spaniard took his remarkable record at Roland Garros to 93 victories from his 95 matches. At 33 years and six days, Nadal became the third oldest Paris champion in the Open era behind Andres Gimeno (34 years and 306 days in 1972) and Ken Rosewall (33 years and 220 days in 1968).

Thiem, who had been the world’s second best clay-court player for the last three seasons, at least had the consolation of taking a set off Nadal in this tournament for the first time in four attempts. Until the third set the Austrian matched his opponent shot for shot, but once Nadal made an early breakthrough in the third set he took control.

Nadal’s baseline play was as effective as ever, but he also won many points with superb play at the net. He hit some excellent volleys, many of them off his shoelaces.

“It’s incredible,” Nadal said after the match. “I can’t explain my feelings. For me it was a dream to play here in 2005, and I could not imagine I would be back here in 2019.”


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.