Sunday, June 11, 2017

La Decima for Rafa Nadal - The Clay Court King

As the volley from a weary Wawrinka sliced into the net, Rafa Nadal dropped flat on the court, all ends sprawled, eyes closed in ecstasy, as the red mud smeared his blue jersey - the King of Clay. Rafa Nadal had created an unprecedented history at French Open to own his La Decima - the 10th crown. It took a little more than just two hours of complete supremacy, as a hapless Wawrinka tried in vain to stem the flow of shots from the Spaniard, breaking his racquet in frustration, & in another moment putting up a resigned smile to walk away, applauding the sheer dominance. The crowd too, gasped in wonder & then break into a collective clap of applause, as Nadal would stretch to reach a ball, that he should not have & then unleash a down the line passing shot that would leave Wawrinka rooted to his spot, watching in fascination, the ball kissing red dirt at the far corner of the court - another winner for Nadal. In the final count the scoreline read 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. Wawrinka, in his fourth Grand Slam final had to lose for the first time, having no answer to Nadal's much superior play on the day.

After the defeat in the finals of the Australian Open this year to his good friend & legend, Roger Federer, one had seen pain in Nadal's eyes - he had allowed Federer to come from behind in the fifth set & take away the trophy. It was a well fought five setter, with both players looking good to claim the title, before Federer pipped Nadal to get his 18th Grand Slam. However, Nadal had mentioned back then, if he could take his good form into France, 'good things can happen' - & it did happen in style, as he stamped his supremacy at the Philippe Chatrier Court today. It was triumph over agony that lasted the most of 2015 & 2016, where a troubled wrist & a severe back pain had almost halted Nadal in his career & people started calling him as 'over the hill'.
Uncle Toni, Nadal's mentor over the years, had identified three areas of improvement, - strengthen the serve, get back the stunning forehand of the yesteryears & most importantly get back the hunger to win again - & Nadal had ticked each of these boxes, with able assistance from coach Carlos Moya.

Such was his dominance in the tournament, that he did not even play a tie breaker, let alone lose a single set through all the seven matches. He lost just 35 games through the seven rounds, second best after Bjorn Borg(who lost 32 games) in 1978, in the Open Era. Nadal has now won this tournament without losing a set, three times - incredible as it may sound !!! It was his 79th victory in 81 matches overall here, winning 10 out of 10 finals & claiming his 15th Grand Slam. He is now 2nd in the all time list, going beyond Pete Sampras & just behind Roger Federer, the legend with18 Grand Slams, who incidentally, also has staged a dream return this year.
In the semis he blew apart Dominic Thiem, the only player to defeat Nadal in Clay this year (at Rome), someone who had blasted defending champion Djokovic, in straight sets in the last eight - a match that was expected to test Nadal to the hilt, did not even last beyond 3 sets. Nadal had given the probable future champion a real spanking & a lesson in Clay Court play. Such was his scathing dominance, that one felt sorry for his opponent.
Perhaps, too one sided was Nadal's dominance in this tournament, as someone mentioned, 'too boring to watch him dominate', as Nadal climbs back to no 2 ranking with this win.

His fans all around the world like me, would love to see him now carry the 'good form' & triumph at Wimbledon & US Open too, & race to the No 1 slot, which was once his domain, not too many years back. Maybe too much to ask, but then, why not, such are stuff that dreams are made of, & right now, we all dream.... Rafa Nadal, its been a fairytale ..... please carry on. We are willing to wager a bet !!!