Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Tennis

Class act Rafael won't stop at his perfect 10


By Eleanor Crooks

Rafael Nadal dispatched all before him to sweep to his own La Decima at the French Open and he is not intending to stop there. The Spaniard becomes the first man to win 10 titles at a single Grand Slam and, if he continues to play like this, then Margaret Court's all-time record of 11 triumphs at a Major looks certain to fall. Her haul came at the Australian Open.

Nadal was at his most masterful on the stage he has made his own and needed just two hours and five minutes to beat Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1.

The 31-year-old lost only 35 games in seven matches and won the title without dropping a set for the third time.

He said: "This tournament, I have been playing great during the whole event since the beginning. So it has been, I think, a perfect Roland Garros for me. I'm very happy for everything.

"Today was a very important day for me. There have been some tough moments the last times, injuries, so it's great to have big success like this again."

Since winning his maiden title on his debut in 2005, Nadal has only failed to take home the trophy on three occasions - in 2009 when he lost to Robin Soderling, in 2015 when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic and last year when he had to pull out because of a wrist injury.

The tournament honoured its greatest champion with a video montage showing highlights of all Nadal's 10 titles.

"In 2005, I thought in 2017 I'd be fishing on my boat in Majorca," he said. "I didn't really think I'd have such a long career and win so many tournaments.

"So this video was very special. It showed great moments of my career. And back then, of course, I couldn't even think for a second that this would ever happen to me."

Wawrinka had won his previous three Grand Slam finals, including victory over Nadal at the Australian Open in 2014 when the Spaniard was suffering with back problems.

This time nothing was hampering the 31-year-old and he gave Wawrinka a very public hiding, with the World No.3 never in the match after a nervy opening from both players.

The Swiss had no doubt about Nadal's level, saying: "For sure he's playing the best he's ever played."

Nadal is well out in front in the yearly standings and could take over Andy Murray's World No.1 ranking after Wimbledon next month, depending on results in SW19.

"I am playing well," Nadal said. "I am in a good position. I just won the most important event of the year for me.

"Winning these kind of titles, then you have chances to become any number on the ranking. If I am able to keep playing well, why not?"

Nadal will be back in action in the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club in a week's time, and his success here potentially bodes well for the grass.

The only previous two times in which Nadal has won the French Open without dropping a set, in 2008 and 2010, he has gone on to win Wimbledon.

The Spaniard has struggled at the All England Club in recent years, winning only five matches since 2011, with his physical difficulties taking their toll.

He said: "There has been a little while since I played a very good Wimbledon. It's true that after 2012 what happened with my knees, it has been tougher and tougher to compete on grass.

"I love grass, everybody knows. And I miss playing well at Wimbledon. So I hope that my knees hold well and I can have the preparation that I really need and the preparation that I wanted.

"If I feel healthy during Wimbledon, then probably I'm going to have my chances to play well."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph