This past Sunday saw Rafael Nadal win the French Open. The victory marked Nadal’s tenth French Open Title which is more than any other man in the history of the tournament. And although that Nadal has been dominant at Roland-Garros as well as clay surfaces overall during his illustrious career, there appeared to be something that was sweeter about this most recent triumph.
In recent years Nadal has been plagued by wrist and back injuries which limited his effectiveness as he appeared to be mortal. 2015 would see Nadal not make it past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam Tournament. 2016 would not be that much better for Nadal as he couldn’t get past the fourth round of a Grand Slam Tournament, while missing Wimbledon altogether. But at the age of 31, 2017 has been a different tale for Nadal.
Nadal has a new coach in fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya who himself won the French Open in 1998, and together these two have been able to make beautiful music together.
After exiting in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open, Nadal would rebound to reach the final in Melbourne this past January before losing to his longtime rival in Roger Federer. Following that Nadal would reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells where he would again fall to Federer. But in the process Nadal showed that he was regaining the form that had made him a legend. And with the clay season right around the corner, Nadal was ready to once again seize his throne.
When Nadal hit the clay, he began to play like a man possessed as he secured victories at tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid. Nadal would make the quarterfinals of the Italian Open where he was surprisingly upset by Dominic Thiem of Austria. But even with the setback versus Thiem, Nadal showed that he was once again ready to dominate on the clay surface.
With the start of the French Open, there was the possibility that Nadal would cross paths with Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic who were the last two winners at Roland-Garros, while he could also have a potential rematch with Thiem. But what ensued from Nadal was complete and utter dominance.
En route to winning the French Open, Nadal would not even lose a set. And that dominance by Nadal would include a straight set victory over Thiem in the semis after he had entered this match flying high by knocking off Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Nadal would then have Wawrinka waiting for him in the final on Sunday which was expected to be one of the best matches of the tournament. However Nadal would turn it into a very one-sided affair as his skill set made Wawrinka who is one the top male tennis players in the world look like a novice.
And after Nadal’s straight set victory over Wawrinka, he fell to the ground to acknowledge retaking his post at the undisputed king of the clay surfaces. When Nadal would rise to his feet, the back of his shirt was covered in clay, but it didn’t matter as the sun on that afternoon in Paris was beaming down on him, while everyone in attendance emerged from their seats to acknowledge one of the greatest players in the history of tennis.
The victory by Nadal marked his tenth title at Roland-Garros, while it was his 15th Grand Slam Title which broke a tie with Pete Sampras for the second most Grand Slams in men’s tennis as he is now only looking up to the 18 of Federer. And with Wimbledon and the U.S. Open still on the docket here in 2017, there is a chance that Nadal could close the gap on his longtime rival. For the first time in a very long time Nadal is healthy, and once you factor that in along with the fact the that he has a new coach as well as the motivation to prove the naysayers wrong who spoke of his demise when he was injured, we’re seeing the rebirth of one of the greatest tennis players to have ever done it.
After Nadal’s win in Paris he is now the second-ranked tennis player in the world behind Andy Murray. And with nearly five months left in the season, Nadal could finish the year ranked number one for the first time since 2013.
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