Beaten French Open finalist Dominic Thiem hailed Rafael Nadal's 'exceptional' 11th Roland Garros triumph on Sunday, joking that it was easier to watch the great Spaniard on TV as a child.
The 24-year-old Austrian was playing in his first Grand Slam final, and although he pushed Nadal at times, he fell to an ultimately one-sided 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 defeat.
"Physically I enjoyed more watching him on the couch," smiled Thiem, who was 11 years old when Nadal won his first French Open in 2005.
"When he won here the first four or five times, I was always watching it. Of course it's really a great thing that I made my way and that I was competing in a final against him.
"It's a really great thing, honestly, but still I'm disappointed, of course. It was a final. I really wanted to win".
Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the last two years after wins in Madrid in 2018 and Rome in 2017.
The world number eight is also one of just three men to have defeated the 17-time Grand Slam champion three times on his favoured surface in total, but he had no answer to the 32-year-old's relentless pressure on Sunday.