Roland Garros 2017 Rafa Nadal Achieves La Decima in Suitably Dominant Style

La Decima Nadal

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Rafa Nadal achieved the greatest ever feat in men’s tennis Grand Slam history when he won his tenth title at Roland Garros and the champion marked that milestone in fitting style with one of the most dominant runs to the trophy ever made at the tournament.

La Decima at a slam looked like it might never happen when a shadowy Rafa Nadal was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros 2015 quarters and it looked even less likely to happen when the game’s best ever clay courter withdrew before his 2016 third round match with a wrist injury. Aged 30 and suffering yet another injury, the common consensus was that Nadal’s at times grinding game had cut his life at the top short, even in this day and age of 30 being the new 20, and that the sport would have to make do with Nine as the record number of men’s singles titles won at a slam, a record already held by Nadal at Roland Garros.

This season, however, La Decima became a realistic prospect once more when Nadal finished runner-up at the Australian Open final, his first slam final since Roland Garros ’14,  and his first time past the quarters of a slam since that event. With new coach Carlos Moya court-side and  armed with hard court and energy friendly flatter shots, Nadal was healthy, wealthy in confidence, and wise, a wisdom he showed after losing the Miami final to Roger Federer when, with La Decima questions coming at him with the ferocity of Federer net attacks, Nadal would not be drawn into discussing his La Decima chances, saying he would take his clay season step by step, knowing only too well, after his run to the Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles a year before seemed to suggest La Decima might be on the cards only for injury to force him to out of the French Open third round, just how temporary the form of a professional tennis player really is.

Nadal’s form stepped confidently into this clay court season as did the career slammer’s class, one of the game’s most permanent and legendary. Few clay court specialists have managed to adapt their games to other surfaces quite the way Nadal has, the Spaniard winning the Channel double in both 2008 and 2010,  and he demonstrated his diversity this European Clay court season once again by hitting topspin heavy, deep strokes, displaying the depth which marks his best form, and which, added to his highly effective, high percentage serving, earned him a few easy points here and there and helped out his 30 year old body, enabling him to put together a 17 match winning streak, taking the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, and reaching the quarters of Rome, and then cruising to the Roland Garros final without dropping a set.

Back into the slam final closest to his heart, Nadal played as ruthless a match as he ever has, his clay court game in the eyes of some experts as good as it has ever been, a performance becoming of a man on his way to becoming the first player in tennis, male of female, to win ten singles trophies at a Major.

In his 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory, won in 125 minutes, Nadal marked a record reflecting his dominance at Roland Garros with a performance becoming such a champion. The Spaniard hit 27 winners to 12 errors, won 83% on his first serve, 65 on his second, and won 18/20 points at the net. The Spaniard’s controlled aggression, tailor made for clay courts, was patient, consistent and relentless, and his defense asked Wawrinka, who had won, with his own explosive brand of aggression,  all three of his previous slam finals, too many awkward questions, forcing either errors or sending the Swiss on the defense, Nadal ever-ready to turn the tables, his aggression ready to be unleashed whenever Wawrinka fell on his backfeet and his shots fell short, the Spaniard overwhelming the man to beat at slams the last few years to win the Roland Garros title for the first time in three years and achieve La Decima.

La Decima takes Nadal to 15 slams, second of all time, moving ahead of Pete Sampras (14), and standing at three behind Roger Federer, and while the greats can decline at the unfortunate twist of a wrist or a sudden letdown from the dizzy heights of slam wins and No.1 rankings, if Nadal can stay healthy and continue to make the brave decisions he has regarding his team and his game, his slam tally could keep growing and in a year’s time La Decima, now considered as the greatest, in the eyes of some, achievement in the history of sport, might be surpassable, #LaOnzieme the game’s next big feat, Nadal, the Clay Court Great even greater, and it is awe-inspiring for his fans, and terrifying for his rivals, to imagine in what fashion he might mark that number.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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