Rafa com­pletes French Open ‘La Dec­ima’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

PARIS: Clay­court king Rafa Nadal re­gained his Roland Gar­ros throne after two years in ex­ile with a bru­tal 6-2 6-3 6-1 maul­ing of Swiss Stan Wawrinka to com­plete ‘La Dec­ima’ yes­ter­day.

Rewind­ing the clock to the days when he was un­touch­able on the crushed brick dust, the 31-year-old turned 2015 cham­pion Wawrinka into a hu­man punch­bag, win­ning in just over two hours.

This ti­tle, an un­prece­dented 10th at a sin­gle grand slam in the pro­fes­sional era, was ar­guably the most im­pres­sive of his 15 though as it ar­rived three in­jury-plagued years after the last one, with­out drop­ping a set and con­ced­ing only 35 games in seven matches.

Only Bjorn Borg, who con­ceded 32 on his way to the 1978 ti­tle, has been a more ruth­less cham­pion.

Hav­ing beaten world num­ber one Andy Mur­ray with a ma­jes­tic dis­play of power in the semi­fi­nal, Wawrinka ar­rived full of con­fi­dence as, at 32, he tried to be­come the old­est French Open win­ner since An­dres Gi­meno in 1972.

But the bar­rel-chested ‘Stan­i­mal’ was pow­er­less as Nadal turned the fi­nal into an ex­hi­bi­tion of his clay­clourt supremacy tak­ing his French Open record to an eye-wa­ter­ing 79-2. As a weary Wawrinka sliced a vol­ley into the net on match point Nadal col­lapsed on his back on the base­line.

“I’m a lit­tle emo­tional,” Nadal said be­fore get­ting to clamp his jaws on La Coupe des Mous­que­taires. “The nerves and adren­a­line I feel on this court is im­pos­si­ble to com­pare.”

The fi­nal be­gan with tem­per­a­tures hov­er­ing around the 30 de­grees Cel­cius mark - per­fect con­di­tions for Nadal’s trade­mark mon­strous top­spin game.

Wawrinka, who spent nearly five hours more on court than Nadal to reach the fi­nal, looked ten­ta­tive and heavy-legged al­though he did have a glim­mer in the third game when Nadal was forced to save a break point.

Nadal failed to con­vert any of the four break points he had in the fol­low­ing game, but drew first blood the next time an op­por­tu­nity arose to take a 4-2 lead.

Then he switched on the af­ter­burn­ers. A mat­ter of min­utes later Wawrinka wafted a fore­hand long to hand Nadal a sec­ond break of serve and the open­ing set.

Wawrinka was flat, strik­ing not a sin­gle win­ner off his glo­ri­ous sin­gle-handed back­hand in the first set, and in less than an hour his task al­ready looked for­lorn.

Nadal was given a time vi­o­la­tion warn­ing at the start of the sec­ond, but Wawrinka could not halt his charge as he bounced into a 3-0 lead in the sec­ond hav­ing won seven games in a row.

With the crowd at­tempt­ing to lift Wawrinka he stopped the rot to hold, fir­ing him­self up with a roar of “C’mon”. Nadal was re­lent­less though, pin­ning Wawrinka back be­hind the base­line. Even when he was stretched the re­sponse was em­phatic, one as­ton­ish­ing fore­hand, whipped from close to the front row of seats to land in the cor­ner, draw­ing gasps from the crowd.

Wawrinka’s frus­tra­tion boiled over as the Spa­niard closed in on a two-set lead, de­stroy­ing his racket frame after a missed fore­hand.

After Nadal sealed the sec­ond set both play­ers left the court while court staff wa­tered down the red dust. Noth­ing could ex­tin­guish Nadal’s fire though. – Reuters have seven points (three games), Stel­len­bosch two points (three games) and Black Leop­ards one point (two games).

In essence, Leop­ards have to win both their re­main­ing games to try to have a shot at pip­ping Baroka on goal dif­fer­ence. Leop­ards face Stel­len­bosch at Athlone Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day (kick-off 3pm) and then host Baroka in Tho­hoyan­dou on Satur­day. –

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