After a slew of injuries and fears from some corners that he may never recover his form, Rafael Nadal has lived up to his nickname, The King of the Clay, and won at Roland-Garros for the tenth time.
La Decima. The Tenth. 10 French Open titles. Let that sink in.
He last won the title in 2014, but since then has had a run of bad luck.
Plagued with the wrist and knee problems that many predicted would come much earlier in his career due to his hard-hitting, uber intense playing style, it looked for a while like his confidence as well as his body was giving way.
Fast forward to the Australian Open earlier this year and he’s in the final against Roger Federer.
Much was made about the comeback of these two powerhouses. Both over 30 and both once again at the peak of their game.
In the fifth set and 3-1 up, it looked like Rafa was going to take it. But Fed fought back, eventually winning. Rafa was back in tip top condition but could he rediscover his belief?
The Australian was certainly a hard hit for Nadal, losing to his old rival and friend, which makes his win at the French even more impressive.
Back at his adopted slam, and a year after he painfully had to withdraw due his wrist injury, Rafa looked like a man on a mission.
While big names toppled around him, he blitzed through the rounds seemingly without a care in the world.
The final against Stan Wawrinka was surely the icing on the cake. Nadal rarely looked in danger of losing a game, let alone a set, and brought the victory home 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
Visibly emotional by his win and the significance of his achievement (although he’d spent the last week claiming that 9 was actually his favourite number), Rafa graciously thanked the French crowd for the part they played in bringing home La Decima.
Next stop is Wimbledon where he has twice been a champion, winning in 2008 and 2010.
The past few years at SW19 have not been kind to Rafa though, so he will be hoping that some of the momentum from the French will carry him through at least the early rounds, which have had a habit of tripping him up.
In 2016 he didn’t compete, in 2015 he lost in the second round to Dustin Brown, in 2014 he lost in the fourth round to Nick Kyrgios, and in 2013 he lost in the first round to Steve Darcis.
The year before he went out in the second round.
It’s great to see Nadal on top form again. Since his first Grand Slam win at 19, lots of things have changed.
He’s cut his hair shorter, and his shorts have followed suit (he used to be known at ‘The Pirate’ for his over-the-knee length bottoms).
But the trademark bandana has stayed, and Uncle Toni is still resolutely in his box (although reportedly this will be his last year coaching Rafa).
Whatever the future holds for Nadal, he has achieved what most tennis players, let alone ordinary folk, can only dream of. Vamos, Rafa!
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