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Thread: Rafael Nadal

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    Rafael Nadal Wins His 10th French Open Title, Dominating Stan Wawrinka

    By Christopher Clarey, The New York Times - JUNE 11, 2017

    It is surely time for a new favorite number for Rafael Nadal.

    Once a very promising soccer player, he has long been partial to No. 9, which often denotes a striker, but it is the No. 10 that has kept bringing him joy and fulfillment this spring.
    Nadal had already won a record 10th singles title on the clay in Monte Carlo and in Barcelona. On Sunday, to no one’s surprise, he did the same at the clay-court event that still matters most, defeating Stan Wawrinka, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, to claim his 10th French Open crown.

    The victory capped what could rightly be seen as Nadal’s most dominant performance at Roland Garros. He lost only 35 games in his seven matches and did not drop a set. The victory also ended a three-year drought of major titles for Nadal, who won his ninth French Open title in 2014.

    “I try my best in all events, that’s the real thing,” Nadal said in remarks during the trophy ceremony. “But the feeling I have here is impossible to describe and difficult to compare to another place. For me the nerves, the adrenaline that I feel when I play in this court is impossible to compare to another feeling. Just for me, it’s the most important event in my career, without a doubt.”

    Wawrinka, a powerful 32-year-old from Switzerland, had never lost in his three previous Grand Slam singles finals. He beat Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open and Novak Djokovic in the 2015 French Open and in the 2016 United States Open. But defeating a healthy, confident Nadal on the terre battue of Paris is still one of sport’s greatest challenges.

    Nadal, a Spaniard, born, raised and still residing on the Mediterranean island of Majorca, is 31 now. A lesser competitor might have lost his edge long ago, but Nadal is still sliding after drop shots and throwing his body into heavy topspin forehands with the gusto of a younger champion.

    Much has changed since his first victory at Roland Garros in 2005, the year of his first appearance in the tournament.

    In 2005, Nadal was partial to sleeveless shirts and pirate pants. In 2005, Court Philippe Chatrier had no aerial camera traveling on a wire above it.
    In 2005, one could stroll up to the entrance of Roland Garros Stadium with a ticket and enter the gates without being frisked or wanded for weapons or explosives.

    The world is very different, but the men’s game has remained surprisingly resistant to change. Nadal’s career-long rival, Roger Federer, beat him to win the Australian Open at age 35 in January. Now Nadal has won another French Open, closing the gap with Federer in the standings for Grand Slam singles titles. Federer remains on top with 18. With Sunday’s win, his 15th, Nadal broke a tie with Pete Sampras for second place. Two-thirds of Nadal’s major titles have come at Roland Garros, where he has an astounding 79-2 record. His only defeats came in the fourth round in 2009 against Robin Soderling and in the quarterfinals in 2015 against Djokovic. He has never lost a French Open final, and his 10 victories in Paris make him the first player to win 10 Grand Slam singles titles at the same tournament in the Open era.

    Martina Navratilova won nine at Wimbledon from 1978 to 1990. Margaret Court’s 11 titles at the Australian Open are the overall record, but seven of those came when it was an amateur event called the Australian Championships. What makes Nadal’s 10 titles in Paris all the more remarkable is that they came in a top-heavy era in the men’s game. Federer and Djokovic are excellent on the clay and, if not for Nadal, would surely have won more than one Roland Garros title apiece. Nadal has beaten great players, often beaten up on great players, to maintain his dominance. But if that dominance continues, one thing is expected to be different.

    He has been coached since the beginning by his uncle, Toni Nadal, who gave him his first lesson in Majorca and has remained by his side throughout his career. But Toni announced this year that he would stop traveling with his nephew on a full-time basis after this season. Carlos Moy, a former No. 1 and a fellow Majorcan, is now part of Nadal’s coaching team and is expected to take over the lead position next year. “Without him, not one would be possible,” Nadal said of his uncle on Sunday. Neither Nadal could have envisioned 10 titles when the pair made their first visit to Roland Garros together in 2005. They were both just delighted that the 19-year-old Nadal was in the event. Twelve years later, the tournament now belongs a bit to both of them. To underscore that, the French Tennis Federation made special plans for Sunday. At the trophy ceremony, with Nadal already holding the traditional Coupe des Mousquetaires, his uncle emerged from a tunnel bearing a second trophy: the replica that Nadal gets to keep. It had a different inscription. This one bore Nadal’s name and the phrase “La Decima,” Spanish for 10th.

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