Rafa Nadal secured his place in the history books as the only player in the Open Era to win the same Grand Slam on 10 occasions as he systematically deconstructed the power game of Stan Wawrinka on Court Philippe Chatrier to reclaim his French Open crown.
Nadal holds court at Roland Garros
Nadal swept to his 10th title at Roland Garros in a crushing display of dominance, restricting the world number three to just six games in a one-sided contest that made a mockery of precipitate questions over the Spaniard’s ability to return to his best after a series of injury problems in recent years that culminated in his early withdrawal from the tournament last year. Throughout this year’s French Open he has been untouchable. The King of Clay surrendered just 35 games en route to the title without dropping a set and was broken just six times in seven contests.
In Sunday’s final Wawrinka was unable to make a dent in the Nadal serve, picking up his only break point opportunity in game three of the first set with the Spaniard unerring on his delivery. Nadal found the target with 65 percent of his first serves and won 83 percent of points played on them, restricting Wawrinka to just 15 points on return. The champion plundered his opponent’s own delivery, taking over 50 percent of points on the Wawrinka serve and broke the Swiss six times overall in a victory that was as convincing as it was concise.
Wawrinka managed to take Nadal past the two-hour mark for only the second time at this year’s French Open and avoided the fate of Dominic Thiem, who was handed a love third set for his temerity. The Swiss’ misery could only have been compounded by that ignominy though as Nadal delivered a masterclass on the crushed brick to nullify Wawrinka’s powerful ground strokes. Taking his returns late to ensure sufficient length to pin his opponent back, Nadal pounded the baseline and didn’t allow Wawrinka to apply any kind of rhythm on his feared backhand. Even when the 2015 champion was able to unleash two or three in a row his efforts were returned, often in extremis, with supreme court coverage from Nadal.
As Wawrinka’s frustration increased a racket was sacrificed but if the tennis gods had tuned in they paid no heed to the Swiss as Nadal turned the screw in the final set, landing 81 percent of his first serves to his opponent’s 48 as he broke Wawrinka three times. Nine of the Swiss’ 19 winners came in the third as he blasted away at any opening but Nadal matched him blow-for-blow and gave up just one unforced error to cap a near-perfect performance on his way to a perfect 10 at Roland Garros.
Wawrinka 0-3 Nadal: as it happened
Wawrinka-Nadal: preview Roland Garros
Most tennis players dream of winning one Grand Slam during their career. A select few will do so, with an even more elite set of players claiming more than one major title. On Sunday in Paris, Rafa Nadal will face Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final in a bid to become the first player in the Open Era to win the same Grand Slam on 10 occasions.
Nadal’s record at Roland Garros is staggering. The Spaniard, who is surely the finest player ever to get clay in his shoes, has a 78-2 win-loss record at the French Open, and a 100-2 balance of victories over five set matches throughout his career on a surface a majority of other players cannot wait to exchange for something with a bit more zip.
Wawrinka, 100 percent in Grand Slam finals
Nadal’s opponent on Saturday, Stan Wawrinka, falls into that category but the Swiss who shares a backhand furnished by the gods with his compatriot Roger Federer has proven in the past that he can adapt his hard-court game to the crushed brick. The 2015 champion was in scintillating form as he beat world number one Andy Murray in five sets to reach the final and he also holds the distinction of never having lost a Grand Slam final. However, Wawrinka has only featured in three in his late-blooming career while Nadal will be contesting his 22nd on Sunday and his 10th on Philippe Chatrier – the Spaniard has also never been beaten in the final in Paris.
Nadal beaten only twice at Roland Garros
The Spaniard’s only two losses at the French Open were inflicted by Robin Söderling in the fourth round 2009 and Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals. In order to add his name to a future pub quiz question Wawrinka recognizes he will have to be at his best.
“To play Rafa on clay in the French Open in a final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis," he said looking ahead to the game. "He's the best player ever on clay. He's going for his 10th Roland Garros, so it's something really impressive. I will have to play my best tennis. But again, I did in the past, so we will see what happens on Sunday.”
Wawrinka has won three of the last six meetings between the players after snapping a 12-game losing streak in the 2014 Australian Open final but has only ever beaten Nadal on clay once, at the 2015 Rome Masters in the three-set format. That said, the Swiss has the kind of power game that can certainly upset Nadal’s rhythm and he hit 87 winners in his semi-final duel with Murray, eventually pounding the number one into the Parisian clay.
Nadal: "I think I can control him"
"It's true that when he hits hard, he hits really hard," Nadal told reporters ahead of the final. "Stopping him can be difficult. I do not want him to play his game, which means I need to make sure I don't let him be in that position where he can hit hard.
“I will have to do everything I can to keep him from playing aggressively. If I can play long balls, if I can hit hard, if I can do that, well, I think I will be able to control him."