I’m so happy that I have been able to watch a generation of tennis that has boasted some of the greatest performers the sport has ever seen. Players like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have no doubt etched their names into tennis history and will be celebrated for their efforts long after they retire. Today Rafael Nadal became Champion of Roland Garros for the tenth time, and to be quite honest, with his complete body of achievements he had already cemented himself as a legend of the game but this individual triumph stands him on his own in a new regard. No player has won a Major trophy ten times… he is the undoubted King of Clay and at 31 years of age this may be perhaps his most significant French Open victory.
A year ago, a 30 year old Nadal was playing with torn tendons in his left wrist, under anaesthetic injections each time he played. The pain stopped his progress at the third round of Roland Garros and he was forced to pull out. He had to have wrist surgery which put an end to his season: no Wimbledon; no US Open; No ATP Tour Finals in 2016. He wasn’t regularly winning Majors anymore and was not getting any younger on top of that. Many people (myself included) questioned whether they would ever see Rafa back at his best on the biggest stage.
Fast forward 12 months and Nadal has returned to the summit of world tennis putting on the best series of performances I have ever seen from him. He seemed sharper than he has been in recent years, hitting the ball harder (if that’s even possible) and with more confidence. He went through the tournament without dropping a single set and his straight sets triumph over runner up Stan Wawrinka was as dominant a display as you will see. Some may point to the gruelling semi-final bout with Andy Murray as to why the Swiss man could not put up much of a fight in the final. But I think the more telling factor was the sheer exhibition Nadal put on from the start. Wawrinka is former French Open Champion and a competitor whose pedigree is not to be second guessed, but on this day he was nowhere near good enough to compete. 6/2 6/3 6/1 was the final result.
The reason why I believe this to be Rafael Nadal’s most significant Roland Garros crown is as follows: to come back from adversity, in the shape of a career threatening injury he suffered one year ago, at perhaps the latter stage of his tenure, and to reassert himself in such commanding fashion as one of the best in the game is a testament to the man’s fortitude and determination. Nadal is living proof that even in the darkest of times there will always be a way to regain your shine. Shine on Rafa!!