Rafa Nadal Roland Garros Trophy No.12
12 trophies at one major for one man. That is what Rafa Nadal achieved in winning Roland Garros yet again the first weekend of June 2019.
Aged 33, his reign in Paris goes all the way back to 2005 when he was a 19 year old playing his first Roland Garros. Just as he did back then, this time around, 14 years on, he beat the Swiss again at that stage before, as he did last year, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final.
For the first two sets, the first Rafa edging in a tighter contest than the 6-3 scoreline suggests, the second Thiem playing smart, conserving his energy, finding his best tennis on the big points, growing into a slam contender before our eyes.
That Thiem effort left him spent; the loss of a set focused Nadal even more- the Spaniard dropped just one more game.
Behind Nadal in the Roland Garros men’s singles titles history books is Bjorn Borg with 6. In the women’s game, the record is 7, held by Chris Evert.
At the other majors, in the Open era, Federer has the record at Wimbledon with 8, Connors, Sampras and Federer are tied at 5 at the US Open, and Djokovic tops the leaderboard in Australia with 7.
That the players with the record haul at slams in the Open era are the most recent greats makes sense. As the field deepens and players are more athletic and have more stamina and access to greater advances in bio-mechanics and science and nutrition and coaching, the very best are fitter and playing longer than legends of the past.
Surface homogenisation also means that those legends such as Nadal, Federer and Djokivic who have won the last eleven slams and 54 of the last 65 (83%) can transfer their styles and skills across, for the most part, all surfaces (all three have won the career slam, Djokovic holding all four slams at one stage of his career; all
Also, while those areas of the sport are improving, some have stayed the same, namely racket technology, which means players coming up do not have an advantage of playing with stronger more powerful rackets, and the only changes taking place, such as bigger racket heads play into the hands of older players, compensating for their drop in foot speed.
Nadal is a player of his time, and he’s in the right time and place, and that is not lost on him. While the current crop of players, and those before them, are trying to find their way, Nadal found his a long time ago, and he’s too disciplined, too professional, and just too good to go off track any time soon.
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