By Obaid ur Rehman.
A long haired young lad Rafael Nadal from Spain’s Mallorca makes his debut at French Open (Roland Garros) in 2005. Former World Number One Spanish Tennis Player Carlos Moya and the current Rafael Nadal’s coach, predicts that this kid would become a tennis legend one day. Right after 12 years in 2017, that kid having strong nerves has managed to do something that has never been done in the history of tennis before. He has won his 10th French Open Title, defeating the third seed Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the Final. Yes, you read that right, the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal has won his 10th French Open Title.
It seemed as if this year was always going to be Nadal’s year, specially when it comes to the Clay Season. There was an air of inevitability throughout the fortnight, and it was felt rightly so during the final. Moments after it had ended, the organizers put up a backdrop for the prize distribution, where LaDecima was already printed. LaDecima is a Spanish term which means “10th” and is used for Spanish Football Club Real Madrid’s obsession with winning 10th European Cup. Rafael Nadal, King of Clay with winning his 10th French Open Title, has become an only player in an Open Era in Tennis to have won any Singles Title in Double Figures.
Players usually come and go and an elite club of men and women has managed to win 10 Grand Slam Titles on their own, whereas, Rafael Nadal has won 10 Majors t one Slam on his favourite Red Dirt or Clay Surface. His win / loss record here is now accelerated to 79/2. By winning his 10th French Open crown, the Spanish Matador has also climbed up to the second spot in the most number of Grand Slams in the history of game. Nadal has 15 Grand Slam Titles to his name whereas the leader of the table is his Arch Rival and Swiss Star Roger Federer, whose recent renaissance saw him win his 18th Major at this year’s Australian Open where he defeated Nadal in an epic five setter battle.
Whilst Nadal’s LaDecima is an extraordinary feat of its own, the manner of achievement gave record bookers a run for their money. Nadal only lost 35 games in his seven matches in this year’s French Open, which is his least of any French Opens he has played and second only to Bjorn Borg’s 32 in 1978. That’s an average of losing five games only per match and when you look into the fact that Nadal hasn’t dropped any set throughout the tournament, the feat eludes the mind even more. It had previously happened in French Opens of 2008 and 2010 when Nadal became victorious without dropping a set.
In the final contest, Wawrinka did come into the final after outlasting Andy Murray in the Semi Final in a five-set match and had spent approximately five more hours on court ending up to have reserved his berth in the Final against Nadal. Nadal was barely tested throughout his draw, with his highest ranked opponent being Novak Djokovic, sixth seed Dominic Thiem in the semi-final, whom Nadal easily bageled (a bagel is when you inflict a 6-0 set on your opponent). Nadal was completely charged for the final and keeping Nadal’s form and fitness in view, Wawrinka had no clue how to overcome Nadal.
Nadal was completely comfortable on serve, with errors from Wawrinka coming by and large. The flip-side, Nadal dominated and was so relentless that Wawrinka never could find his groove, going for shots he would only hope to make. Whenever he thought he would struck a winner, the ball came back and he had no idea how to win a point. Nadal backpedals on court and turns defense into offence quicker than a bolt of lightning reaches planet earth. When in offence, he unleashes ground-strokes with head-turning topspin and sheer ferocity (specially with that left-handed forehand), that Wawrinka could only applaud to or hopelessly try and get back across the net. What else could have been the result of the match? The answer is obviously a “one-sided final”.
Many tennis experts were hoping for a blockbuster and nail bighting final between Nadal and Wawrinka, but probably they had no idea that Nadal is the man of clay surface, made for clay surface. He is the man who is probably born for the red dirt. It was supposed to be a massive showdown in the final, but Wawrinka could only watch and wonder why and how Nadal has dominated on this surface and reigned supreme here for so many years. Even at the age of 31, Nadal had been flawless throughout the tournament. Nothing else could have been expected from this year’s French Open other than Nadal winning his 10th title here and continuing his dominance and rule over this surface in Paris.
With this victory, Nadal has jumped to the second spot in the ATP rankings and on the other end, Djokovic who is constantly struggling with his form, seeking inspiration and a coach as well, has slipped to the fourth spot. Along with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, the current and the one who looks soon to be replaced, World No. 1 player in the world, also looked out of sorts but managed to reach the semis here, where he lost to Wawrinka in a thriller contest.
On the other end, Wawrinka himself continues to prove why he is amongst the tennis elite by reaching his fourth Grand Slam final in the time span of two-and-a-half-years. Before today, he had won all three finals he has played. In this French Open, Roger Federer was resting to prepare himself for the next month’s Wimbledon. Out of the next generation, only Dominic Thiem showed that he definitely has a potential to win a Grand Slam in near future. A truly thrilling prospect, he lost to the ever-young-on-clay Nadal, who has now become to world number two.
After a year of injuries, forced breaks and after having to withdraw from Roland Garros due to a wrist injury last year, Nadal’s own renaissance has been quite a fairy tale. He has reached two Grand Slam finals this year and has resumed his love affair with the Red Dirt. Something that even in Nadal’s own words is quite an emotional roller coaster. The crowd in Paris probably didn’t know how to react to his win. Either they could have celebrated, like the rest of us or they could have felt bored, because whenever Nadal wins a Roland Garros title after a break, he makes sure that the run continues for at least next four years. The legend of Rafael Nadal is not a myth, it’s real and I feel lucky to witness it.
The writer is Islamabad based Research Analyst / Content Writer / Media Person and is currently pursuing his M. Phil. Degree in Media Studies from Bahria University Islamabad. He writes on Politics, Current Affairs, Social Issues and Sports and can be reached at;