Roland Garros 2017 Rafa Nadal Looks Ready to Bite A 10th French Open Trophy

Rafa Nadal

Photo Courtesy of http://a1on.mk

Rafa Nadal has already achieved two La Decimas this season, but in Nadal’s world, there are La Decimas and then there are La Decimas, and for Nadal, the most important one is coming up at Roland Garros. The Tennis Review looks at the case for and against Nadal achieving what would be one of the, if not the, most impressive feats in men’s tennis history.

History 

For: If there was ever a player who could claim a Grand Slam to be his home or his backyard, then it is Rafa Nadal.

Nadal’s history at Roland Garros is already, whatever happens in his career, the most impressive of any player at a slam ever. In 11 appearances at Roland Garros, Nadal has only lost twice (2009, ’15, withdrew in ’16), and the Spaniard even won the title on his debut in 2005, beating world No.1 Roger Federer on the way (his first of five wins versus the Swiss at Roland Garros).

Against: History is exactly that. While previous history at an event, a leading head to head versus an opponent or a favorable match up may be an important factor when it comes to players succeeding in slams, Nadal knows only too well that matches are decided on the day and that players can work out new strategies and develop their games as he found out versus Roger Federer at the Australian Open this season.

Form

For: Up until the Rome quarters a couple of weeks ago, Nadal had won 17 matches in a row, and in 2017 the ATP Race to London leader has won three titles, reached three finals, and lost in the Sydney quarters and the Indian Wells last 16, compiling a 36-6 win-loss record. In that stretch, he has gone 6-5 versus the top ten, and 6-0 versus players ranked 11-20.

His loss to Thiem in Rome may turn out to be, in the long run, a key factor in his winning Roland Garros, giving his tired body and mind a few more days rest.

Against:  Nadal will turn 31 on June 3rd and he might be a victim of his own success if during Roland Garros he discovers he does not have the energy he had just a couple of years ago, and his form drops as a result.

Confidence

For: Nadal is a player who gets his confidence from winning matches, and he needs confidence to win those big matches, a vicious cycle which hurt him a lot from Wimbledon 2014 to the US Open last season, particularly in the Slams where he suffered one shock loss after another.

Finally, though, this season in Melbourne, Nadal broke that cycle and has been racking up the wins and growing in confidence ever since.

Against: Nadal has lost his biggest final of 2017, losing the Australian Open after being a break up in the fifth versus Roger Federer, and also lost finals in Miami and Acapulco.

Each time, though, he lost to a player executing great hard court tennis, playing better than him, while on clay, in his current condition, there are less chances of him meeting such a rival.

Mental toughness

For: Nadal is, historically, one of the mentally toughest players in tennis, and that toughness is at its peak at Roland Garros where he has come through tough five set matches such as versus Djokovic in ’13 or John Isner in the 2011 first round.

Those matches are, actually, the only two five setters Nadal has contested in his 74 Roland Garros matches (72-2), a stat which illustrates just how tough he is in Paris.

Against: Nadal has not won a slam since Roland Garros 2014, and three years is a long time in tennis, a sport in which winning the big ones, a feat that is achieved by only a small circle of players (there are only seven active slam champions on tour right now, and those seven different men have won every slam since Roland Garros 2005) is definitely a habit.

Competition 

For: Nadal’s main rival in 2017, Roger Federer, is not playing the French, Novak Djokovic has declined and Nadal recently turned around a seven match losing streak to him in Madrid, Andy Murray is struggling, and only one man managed to beat him this clay season, Dominic Thiem.

The French Open draw has also been a kind one for Nadal- Gilles Simon (31) in round three, Jack Sock (14) in round four, and Milos Raonic (5) in the quarters, and no dangerous floaters in his quarter.

The tournament will get tougher in the semis with a potential meeting with Novak Djokovic (2) who should be in decent form if he reaches that stage, David Goffin (10) or Dominic Thiem (6).

Against: Dominic Thiem played the right style of controlled aggression necessary to beat Nadal in Rome and stayed positive despite Nadal having chances and keeping the match going for two hours. If Nadal is going to lose to anyone at Roland Garros, it will be to someone playing much like Thiem did in Rome or the brand of all out attack Robin Soderling executed on Phillipe Chatrier in 2009, and only Thiem or Wawrinka seem capable of doing so on clay right now.

In the final, if Stan Wawrinka gets through, Nadal could be in trouble. Wawrinka knows how to beat a heavy favorite in a Roland Garros final, as he did to Novak Djokovic in 2015, his heavy hitting aggression overwhelming the Serbian, and that style of play could be effective versus Nadal if he is feeling the pressure or his long season starts to take its toll on his body and mind and his defensive game is not up to the standard needed to negate Wawrinka’s attack.

Conclusion:

Nadal has had a confidence building run this clay season, is match fit, has had some rest, and has a great draw- only his own body can really prevent him winning La Decima in Paris, or his mind, and both could break down with all the pressure that will come with winning La Decima.

If anyone has been made aware, however, over the last few seasons, what a privilege pressure in slam finals really is, it is Nadal, the Spaniard, bar this season’s Australian Open, sitting on the sidelines at the business end of slams since Wimbledon ’14, watching one slam trophy go by after another, (which he also did in Melbourne, but at least he was playing for the title) waiting for the time his hard work and talent would put him back in contention, and now he is back there, it is hard not to see the top of the 2017 Roland Garros trophy back in his arms, one of the handles back between his teeth.

Nadal Roland Garros

Photo courtesy of SportCafe24.com

The Tennis Review

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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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