11 Jun 2017

Nadal demolishes Wawrinka for 10th Roland Garros title

News Article

By Tom Moran

Photo: Paul ZimmerRafael Nadal (ESP)

After the women’s final on Saturday saw the birth of a new star and a first-time major champion, Sunday saw Grand Slam success of a much more familiar variety. For there is no more recognisable sight in Grand Slam tennis than Rafael Nadal lifting the Coupe des Mosquetaires on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The scale of the Mallorcan’s triumphs at Roland Garros are unmatched by any male player to have played the game. The title here this year – secured with a comfortable 62 63 61 victory over the world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka – sees Nadal become the first man to win 10 titles at any one Grand Slam event. The seven Wimbledon titles won by both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras seem like modest achievements by comparison.

“Magical” was Nadal’s succinct summary of the day’s events before turning his attention to the difficulties that he has faced since his last title here in 2014.

“Today was a very important day for me,” he continued. “Have been some tough moments last times, injuries, so it's great to have big success like this again.”

The match itself was an exhibition of Nadal’s clay court prowess – not for nothing is he known as the ‘King of Clay’. After finding his range early on, he gently eased into top gear midway through the first set, breaking the Wawrinka serve in the sixth game and again as the Swiss served to stay in the set.

An early break in the second helped Nadal into a two-set lead – a position he has surrendered just twice before, and never on a clay court – and from there it was plain sailing. He broke the Wawrinka serve yet again in the opening game of the third set and just half an hour later he was on his back on the crushed earth and beaming at the Parisian sky in celebration.

Is this the best tennis he has ever played? “I feel I was playing well since beginning of the season, but it's true that in my career I have had a lot of good years,” Nadal said in his press conference later, with just the hint of a smile.

He added: “This year has been very special since the beginning. I am playing very well. I don't like to compare. The only thing that I know is I am playing well now. I am happy. I am enjoying every week, and I want to continue and I am going to try to keep working hard to try to enjoy more beautiful weeks.”

It is hard to summarise just how dominant Nadal has been here these two weeks. He dropped just 35 games and not a single set en route to the title – not just a throwback to his most devastating days here, but his best ever performance, beating his previous mark of 41 games dropped when he won the title in 2008.

Put simply, Nadal’s combination of power, depth and spin is close to unplayable on this surface. His ability not just to retrieve lost causes but also to return those balls with venom is second to none. Not even Wawrinka, who treats tennis balls as though they have a personal vendetta against him, could outhit the Spaniard – with balls flying back at and past him with alarming velocity and frequency.

“For sure, when you play against him, he's amazing fighter,” Wawrinka analysed later. “On clay he's just tough to play. There is always one ball coming back. There is always spin on the ball. There is always a different bounce than what the other players make on that surface. He creates a doubt that you cannot have if you want to beat him. And on clay especially, because of the way he's moving, it's even more difficult.”

There is no shame in losing to Nadal here, even by a scoreline such as this one, and Wawrinka will have many positives to take away from this fortnight, not least among them the superb five-set victory against world No. 1 Andy Murray in the semifinals. But there was not a fourth Grand Slam title – not yet, at least – with his golden run in major finals coming to an end.

Nadal, meanwhile, moves on to a total of 15 Grand Slam titles with this win, ahead of Sampras in third place on the all-time list and just three behind Federer in top spot. He also returns to No. 2 in the world, his highest position since October 2014, when the new rankings are released on Monday.

In Sunday’s other final, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova defeated the Australian pair of Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 62 61 in a one-sided women’s doubles final to claim their second Grand Slam doubles title of the year.

That is one more than Nadal of course, following Federer’s five-set victory in Melbourne in January, but the Spaniard is undoubtedly the player of the year to date, with more matches and titles won than any other player on the men’s tour.

Whether he will have major success away from the red clay of Roland Garros as he chases down Federer’s mark – which is itself a moving target given the Swiss maestro’s resurgence this year – remains to be seen. But at just 31 years of age and in better form than ever there’s no obvious reason why he can’t reign supreme in Paris for several years to come.