Roland Garros Rewind: Thoughts on Rafael Nadal’s Victory over David Ferrer in the Men’s Final
Rafael Nadal may have lost his first set at Roland Garros 2013, but he won his last set. The King of Clay burnished his legend on the surface even further by securing an eighth Roland Garros title at the expense of fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Here are some key things to know about the final and Nadal’s achievement more generally.
The superior Spaniard: Ferrer ends the tournament ranked higher than Nadal, but no human agrees with the computers on that opinion. He looked very much David to the Goliath across the net, understandable considering that he contested his first major final today against a career-long nemesis. A few exceptions like Francesca Schiavone aside, even weathered veterans do not excel in that situation.
Calm after the storm: After the dramatic sweep of the Djokovic-Nadal semifinal, the final’s relatively routine narrative came as the anticlimax that most envisioned. The match contained few turning points or real momentum shifts, not surprising for a rivalry in which one man had won 16 straight meetings on this surface.
Look out, Sampras: Nadal moves within two major titles of tying the American for second place on the all-time list. Surely he will bring his peak clay form to Paris at least two or three more times, which means that, with any luck at all, he ultimately should pass Sampras and perhaps even edge within range of a certain someone else.
Be jealous , Monte Carlo: You’re not alone anymore at the top of Rafa’s list. Nadal now has won as many titles at Roland Garros as he has at his Mediterranean fortress—or anywhere else. In fact, his eight titles here are the most that any man has won at any major.
21-1: That is Nadal’s record against top-ten opponents since losing to Roger Federer at Indian Wells last year. Djokovic predictably notched the “1,” handing the Spaniard his only defeat on European clay this season in Monte Carlo.
26-1: That is Nadal’s record in clay finals against opponents other than Federer and Djokovic. He also improves to 4-0 in major finals against opponents other than those two, Roland Garros hosting three of those wins. Horacio Zeballos recorded the “1” in the first tournament of Nadal’s comeback this year.
Uprooting top seeds: Only once in the last ten years (Nadal in 2011) and twice in the last twenty (Gustavo Kuerten in 2001) has the top seed won the Roland Garros men’s singles title. Nadal has held a seed lower than No. 1 seven times and won the tournament every time. Six times out of seven, he defeated the top seed en route to the title.
A breath of fresh air: Today was the first men’s major final since Wimbledon 2010 that featured someone from outside the Big Four. But Roland Garros 2013 became the 14th consecutive major won by one of them, and 32nd of the last 33.
The minimalist major: Only once since 2000 has the Roland Garros men’s final reached a fifth set. All of the other three majors have featured multiple five-set men’s finals during that span.
London calling: Is Nadal the favorite at Wimbledon? He’s certainly not the prohibitive favorite, as he was at Roland Garros, but once again Djokovic might be the only member of the Big Four who can stop him there. Nadal has dominated Murray on grass and crushed Federer twice this year, albeit on slower surfaces. Even Djokovic might have trouble bouncing back from Friday to reverse that result in a month. Nadal’s greatest challenge might come in the early rounds there, as it often has.
Au revoir, Paris: The bad news is that this article concludes the series of Rewinds and Fast Forwards from Roland Garros next year. The good news is that I have one last Roland Garros article appearing tomorrow on my favorite memories from the tournament overall. The best news is that Wimbledon Fast Forward starts two weeks from today.
Question of the day: How many Roland Garros titles will Nadal win in his career? I’m setting the over-under at 10.5.