A jack of all serves stands in way of an ace in spades

CityPress - - Sport -

It has been a breeze for Rafa Nadal so far at this year’s French Open – but a storm is brew­ing.

Even by the Spa­niard’s ridicu­lously high stan­dards at a tour­na­ment in which he has won 78 of his 80 matches since bound­ing into town like a run­away bull in 2005, the way he has reached his 10th fi­nal has been as­ton­ish­ing.

The 31-year-old has not con­ceded a set and dropped only 29 games in six rounds – two more than Björn Borg’s 1978 record when the Swede de­stroyed Guillermo Vi­las in the fi­nal.

How­ever, stand­ing in the way of the Mal­lor­can be­com­ing the first player in the pro­fes­sional era to win the same Grand Slam ti­tle 10 times is a highly de­struc­tive Swiss; not 18-time ma­jor win­ner Roger Fed­erer, but the bar­rel-chested Stan Wawrinka.

Wawrinka was at his bel­liger­ent best against world num­ber one Andy Mur­ray in a semi­fi­nal clas­sic on Fri­day, strik­ing 87 win­ners in a five-set duel that would have graced any fi­nal.

Late bloomer Wawrinka (32) has won each of the three Grand Slam fi­nals he has con­tested and pos­sesses the kind of base­line fire­power Nadal has not faced in the past fort­night.

Wawrinka will not be tak­ing a back­wards step when play com­mences on Court Philippe Cha­trier to­day. Should Wawrinka re­peat his scin­til­lat­ing 2015 vic­tory over No­vak Djokovic, he will be­come the old­est man to lift The Mus­ke­teers’ Tro­phy since 34-year-old An­drés Gi­meno in 1972.

The last Grand Slam clash be­tween the pair came at Mel­bourne Park in 2014, when Wawrinka beat a hob­bling Nadal to claim his first ti­tle. It was a break­through mo­ment for the Swiss, but, even then, there was a sense that he still felt like an im­poster at the top ta­ble of men’s ten­nis.

Three years on and there is lit­tle doubt that Wawrinka truly be­lieves he be­longs along­side the best and that, when the stakes are high­est, he brings it all to court.

PHO­TOS: IAN MACNICOL / GETTY IM­AGES

POISED Stan Wawrinka of Switzer­land

DAZ­ZLING Rafael Nadal of Spain is ranked fourth in the world

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