Proven: Nadal Is The Bonafide ‘King of Clay’




Rafael Nadal - King of Clay

Rafael Nadal – King of Clay

The run up to this year’s French Open was unique. After a very long time did Rafa enter a clay court tournament not as the favourite to win it. That tag belonged to Novak Djokovic this time. Breathing down Rafa’s neck in the ATP rankings, Novak was on a 39 game unbeaten streak coming into the tournament. He had won the first Slam of the year and had proceeded to defeat everyone in his sights, including Rafa on clay: Twice.

However comes the second Sunday, normalcy had returned to the world of men’s tennis. Fighting for the title were the obvious competitors- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Federer has never relished playing Nadal, certainly never on clay and people had been throwing a whole gamut of theories of how he should set about to defeat Rafa.

FedEx started the game like a Rolls Royce, purring along smoothly handling whatever Rafa threw at him with elan. However at 5-2 up and serving for the set came the first big point of the game. Federer played one of his wonderful drop shots and would be aggrieved that the chair umpire ruled it out even though it looked to have gotten the line. Suddenly his game fell apart and up stepped Rafael Nadal. He took the first set 7-5 and the road ahead suddenly became tougher for Federer. He started the next set serving and was immediately broken. It seemed that he had almost given up hope of getting anything from the game. The second set seemed destined to be going Rafa’s way again before came the second big point in the match.  The play had been suspended for rain with Rafa two points from wrapping up the second set. Federer used the break to gain an advantage and broke Nadal’s serve on resumption of play. However it was all Nadal once again in the tie-breaker.

The third set also seemed to be drifting towards the Mallorcan before at 4-2 something snapped. Federer started playing like a man possessed. He broke Nadal’s serve twice to wrap up the third set and give some hope to his vast legion of fans. Nadal has made much of his reputation by playing his most spectacular tennis when under pressure. The Phillippe Chartier court had just started buzzing with Federer’s supporters voicing their support. Nadal weathered the initial support before he reeled off five straight games to wrap up his 10th Grand Slam title and equal Bjorn Borg’s record of 6 French Open titles.

Federer would take heart from his effort that though he looked wayward for most of this match, he could trouble Nadal whenever he started playing even a little better. Next up for both these men will be Wimbledon and I trust Federer would have already started to plot Nadal’s downfall on Federer’s patch in London. If Federer looks even half as imperious as he has looked for the majority of his time in Paris, we are in for a treat.

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