Nine times Rafael Nadal has played at the Roland Garros in Paris, and eight times now he has left the clay courts of the French Open as a champion, more than anyone has ever won in a single grand slam tournament, reaching the achievement after a rather anti-climatic final against David Ferrer.
What could have we expected when Nadal faces off against a man he’s lost to only four times in 27 matches? It ended in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 breezer for the Spaniard, winning his 12th Grand Slam title, pushing him further up the list of the all-time greatest players, with his labeling of best ever on clay set a very long time ago.
The real final happened two days earlier, as Nadal and Djokovic beat the living s@#$ out of each other in an epic semifinal between the two best players in the world, as Djokovic, the world number one, falling short once again from completing his career grand slam.
It was always going to be a lackluster final once Ferrer was the one who won the semifinal against Tsonga. Ferrer is a great player, up to a point, but he’s certainly not fun to watch, and the power and determination of Rafael Nadal gets the better of him time after time, usually without allowing his countryman to pick up a set.
Greatest player of all-time? We’ll have to wait and see. When almost all of your all-time success is attributed to one surface only, despite the career grand slam Rafael Nadal has, you’re always going to have those questioning your historic credentials. But Nadal moved a step closer to Federer, who it would be a wise bet to assume he won’t win another grand slam title again in his career.
Nadal is back, it’s official. Everything leading up to this moment – the Masters and South American rehabilitation tour, was only foreplay for him to take on his favorite court, his favorite stage, where he has lost only once since his teenage years, and being absolutely perfect, flawless, the rest of the way.
Nadal beat Daniel Brands, Martin Klizan, Fabio Fognini, Kei Nishikori, Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic before destroying Ferrer in the final. Not the toughest of draws, and still he dropped four sets along the way, including two to Djokovic. Not perfection in the micro way of looking at things, but certainly brilliant considering everything he’s been through for the last 12 months, beginning at Wimbledon 2012.
Is that going to be his real redemption? Coming back to the grass courts in London and proving this isn’t just about being dominant on clay, but about being the best player in the world despite all the injuries and off-time? We already knew that the French Open was his tournament, although Djokovic was still the favorite to win considering everything, including the one final between the two players at Monte Carlo earlier this year.
Nadal might decide to rest a bit now, but everything we’ve seen from his this year is telling us that he’s as hungry as ever to prove his place among the legends of the sport, and placing himself above everyone else, including on courts that aren’t colored red and shoot up dust with every slide, where he has already been crowned an undefeated master a very long time ago.