Rafael Nadal Still the King of Clay, Too Good for Roger Federer at French Open Final

I was thinking about how to write my apology to Roger Federer when he was up 5-2 in the first set. Well, never got to it. Rafael Nadal took over the match, eventually winning it 3-1 (7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1), a record tying sixth Roland Garros title, equaling Bjorn Borg, and his 10th Grand Slam title.

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When it comes down to it, Rafael Nadal was too good for Roger Federer. Despite the crowd, despite the fact that Federer produced better tennis than him at spurts, absolutely splendid tennis. But not for long enough. Both men knew that Federer needed to play near perfect tennis to beat Nadal. Nadal just has to be good and solid for long stretches, and he was.

His ability to turn defense to offense with massive forehand shots or that out of nowhere crosscourt backhands he commands changed the momentum in the two times it seemed the match was going Federer’s way. That feeling that Nadal just gains strength as the match goes on and on crept back up in the fourth set. Nadal was too strong, grinding Federer to a pulp as the Swiss legend’s wheels start to come off. Too many shots going long, hitting the net. The end came nearer and nearer until that final long shot, way out, send Nadal into celebrations, for the 17th time in 25 matches against Roger.

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The Federer appetite for titles is still there. I always expect it to disappear, but it’s still there. Too bad for the Rafael Nadal of the world, standing in his way in the Roland Garros final for the fourth time. Nadal has now beaten Federer in six Grand Slam Finals. The only other player to beat Federer in a Slam final is Juan Martin Del Potro in the 2009 US Open.

Questions of legacy and place in history always come up after a match between the two – Nadal is too good for Federer nearly every time, winning 9 of their last 11 meetings. He’s six titles away from the record holder, and at this pace, despite Federer still within reach of Wimbledon and the US Open at his current form, if his knees hold up, I’m expecting him to give one heck of a challenge for that mark.

I think Nadal should have thanked Federer for beating Djokovic in that fantastic semi final. I think Djokovic has Nadal’s number right now, clay court or hard. Just a matter of match up and form. The Spanish Bull was incredibly dominant against Roger and Andy Murray in the last two matches, but I want to see a Slam final between Rafa and Novak. I’m not sure Wimbledon will be the place to see that happen. Till any two of this trio meet again, it’s Nadal with the upper hand, as usual.