As a child prodigy growing up on the Spanish island of Majorca, Rafael Nadal dreamed of winning just one French Open title.
Now he has ten.
Nadal has always been a modest superstar, avoiding public displays of entitlement with the same assiduity that he arranges the beverage bottles on court in front of his chair. But there could be no avoiding the encomiums or the obvious on Sunday as Nadal crushed the suspense out of another French Open final against a quality opponent, routing Stan Wawrinka, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and five minutes.
“Rafa, this is one of the most beautiful exploits in the history of sport,” said Fabrice Santoro, the former French star turned French Open interviewer, as he approached Nadal on court very shortly after his quest for a 10th title — La Decima, in his native Spanish — had become reality.
It is no doubt a sporting achievement for the ages: no other men’s tennis player has won more than seven singles titles at the same Grand Slam event. And it is also surely time for a new favorite number for Nadal.
Once a very promising soccer player, he has long favored the No. 9, traditionally worn by strikers. But the No. 10 is what has kept bringing him joy and fulfillment this spring. He already had won a record 10th singles title on the clay in Monte Carlo and in Barcelona.
That he managed it in Paris, too, came as a surprise to no one, certainly not the tournament organizers who unfurled a No. 10 banner in the stands high above the Court Philippe Chatrier after his victory and had a No. 10 painted on the podium.
“I try my best in all events, that’s the real thing,” Nadal said. “But the feeling I have here is impossible to describe and difficult to compare to another place. For me the nerves, the adrenaline that I feel when I play in this court is impossible to compare to another feeling. Just for me it’s the most important event in my career without a doubt.”
The victory capped what can be rightly seen as Nadal’s most dominant performance at Roland Garros. He did not drop a set in his seven matches and lost a total of 35 games, the second fewest by any Open era men’s champion at any Grand Slam event in which all the matches were best-of-five sets.
Bjorn Borg, the pokerfaced Swede who was the best men’s claycourt player in history until Nadal’s emergence, dropped only 32 games en route to the 1978 French Open title.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Christopher Clarey