Hail To The King of Clay!

Rafa the worthy champion

By Roger Childs

The finalists

No-one had ever won 10 grand slam tennis titles at the same venue. That changed on Sunday when the brilliant Rafael Nadal thrashed Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 at Roland Garros. He won his first title there in 2005 and, but for injury problems over the last two years, would have achieved an amazing tenth win earlier.

In 2017 he has been fully fit, and made the final at the February Australian Open only to lose in five sets to his old nemesis, Roger Federer. Nadal is at his best on the clay surfaces of Europe and, leading up to the Paris grand slam, won successive clay tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

A result that was never in doubt

Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka had beaten world number one, Andy Murray, in his semi-final and was definitely the best of the rest. However, the left-handed Nadal, who had not lost a set on his way through six rounds to the final, was in no mood to show any mercy.

Rafa played with his characteristic focus, aggression and determination, and once he broke Stan service in the sixth game of the first set, he never looked back. In earlier years Nadal had a serve that relied less of power and more on top spin and unpredictability. However, the power is now there, and the Spaniard has a game with no weaknesses.

In demolishing Wawrinka’s challenge, there were all the trademark elements of Nadal at the top of his game:

 ~ strong and varied serving: once the Swiss moved slightly away from the centre line to  receive as the Spaniard wound up, so Nadal hammered the serve down the centre for an ace

~ consistently powerful ground strokes from behind the baseline

~ superb retrieving from both sides, often resulting in amazing cross-court winners

~ wonderful judgement on where to place the ball

~ coming to the net when the opportunity arose, and never missing a volley.

Happiness and motivation are everything

I do things as they come. Right now, I don’t really know. I’m just going to keep on playing as long as it makes me happy. If one day I get up in the morning and I’m no longer motivated to go train, well, I guess that day I will put an end to my career. You know what? I’m not worried. I’m a happy person. Rafael Nadal

Nadal has a very similar approach to his old rival, Roger Federer, and is very clearly enjoying his tennis. Both had injury problems in 2016 and being in their thirties had been written off by some commentators. But the legendary duo do their “talking” on the court.

Added to skill and fitness, motivation is at the heart of sporting achievement. So far in 2017 Roger and Rafa have a grand slam each, and between them have won seven of the top nine tournaments.

Now in mid June, Nadal is the man of the moment and moves on to Wimbledon with the number two world ranking under his belt.

All the big guns will be there, including Federer, who by-passed the French Open. The Swiss has won on the Wimbledon grass seven times and would love to extend his record total of grand slams to 19.

In the meantime, Rafael Nadal can bask in the glory of ten Roland Garros wins, and, like the huge flag that unfolded in the upper stands above the Philippe Chatrier Court at the end of Sunday’s match, we say BRAVO RAFA!