It is that time of the year when sports writers sit in front of their desks and pay their respect to a certain Spaniard who has made Paris his playground. It is June, it is the time the tennis world turns to Roland Garros to watch Rafael Nadal win the French Open once again, just like he has done for 11 of the past 14 years.
So how do you come up with words for someone who defies logic, form and injuries year after year? When do you run out of adjectives and superlatives to describe someone who simply turns up, wins the tournament and everyone goes home?
Well, for a change I’m going to rather write about what Dominic Thiem should have done to stop Rafael Nadal on Sunday.
Few words in the English language can be used to describe Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros but one that sums it up is – Domination. How else would you justify what he has done on the hallowed grounds of the Phillipe Chartier arena 11 times or the ‘Un Decima’ as the Spanish call it?
To put this in perspective, his opponent on Sunday – Dominic Thiem was 11 years old when Rafa won his 1st French Open. After the final, the Austrian said that he watched in 2005 in front of his television and it was a dream to play against him despite the result not going his way. Please bear in mind, that this is the best clay court player on the ATP tour who was dispatched in straight sets in what can only be described as routine for Rafa.
- To begin with, Thiem’s best chance to win on Sunday would have to be Rafa hitting his head on the doorway as he comically jumps up to warm up before making his way out to centre court. Remember Wimbledon 2017 against Muller?
- In one of the few moments, Thiem got the better of Nadal in the final he took the rally to 17 shots per point that would be outright winners against any other opponent and then won the point of a lucky net cord.
- If he had to take a set off Rafa, he would have to do that at least 24 times per set and hope, just hope that his opponent has an off day.
- If he somehow did that for two sets, he would be only the 5th player to have faced Rafael Nadal in 88 French Open matches and take more than a set off him.
- Also, he would have to do that in the first set itself because Nadal is 77-0 after he wins the first set at Roland Garros.
- If lady luck had his back through each point, in each set then Thiem would become only the 3rd player to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
Bear in mind, he’s been playing here since 2005.
Such is the admitted admiration of his peers that his greatest rival- Roger Federer doesn’t even participate in the French Open anymore and a dejected Nicolas Almagro conceded defeat saying that Rafa would be 65 and still be winning the French Open. On that red clay of Paris, Rafa is quite simply unstoppable.
More of the same, please.
It is unique, the kind of pressure, Rafa Nadal finds himself under every June. For 127 players who enter the draw winning the French Open is an aspiration, a dream that has odds worse than any other major tournament in the world across sports. For Rafa, he is merely meeting expectations.
We’ll see you next year again in June for a follow up on this article. #VamosRafa