Roland Garros keeps changing look and shape in the 21st century. It is vaster and more avant-garde, and perhaps it will become less crowded in the passageways as tennis fans shuffle from match to match.
The No. 1 Court, known as the bullring, will soon be demolished. The No. 2 Court, with its enchanting lack of symmetry, is already gone.
Even the main Philippe Chatrier Court, where Rafael Nadal won his 12th French Open singles title on Sunday, was reconstructed in the past year.
It might be hard to believe at this stage, but Nadal will fade from view someday, too. Or at least he’ll spend men’s final day in the front row of the presidents box, his water bottles surely still in order, instead of in the arena with his socks coated in red clay and his poor opponents failing to find, to use one of his favorite English words, solutions.
But for now, and for honestly who knows how much longer, Nadal, 33, remains a pillar of the place: more immovable, as it turns out, than many a stadium.
He has cemented his reputation and legacy year after year, duel after duel, rout after rout. He added another layer of mortar on Sunday by holding off Dominic Thiem, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, in what was a dazzler of a final for exactly two high-powered, spectacularly athletic sets.
“The first set was unbelievably intense; the second as well,” Thiem said. “Maybe I had a little drop in the third set, I don’t know, but against other players, it’s not that dramatic, a little drop like that physically and also tennis-wise. But him, such a great champion, he uses the situation and goes all in.”
Nadal has been giving it all in Paris and elsewhere since 2005, and he is now 12-0 in finals at Roland Garros. That is not a typo. His only two losses at any stage at this event came in the fourth round in 2009 to Robin Soderling and in the quarterfinals in 2015 to Novak Djokovic.
Other than that, it has been “Vamos Rafa!” The former French star Fabrice Santoro began his postmatch interview with Nadal on Sunday by reeling off all the years he had prevailed in Paris: “2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019.”
It sounded more like a mantra than a question, and well before Santoro finished off the list, Nadal was scratching the back of his head and looking slightly embarrassed. He has such gaudy stats, yet away from the clay he is more into understatement. But awkward moments are his own fault for enduring and winning beyond any reasonable expectation.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Christopher Clarey