Spaniard Rafael Nadal is king of French clay. Virtually unbeatable on a surface that demands the most of any player’s strength and stamina, Nadal achieved a perfect 10 in Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros. This feat is a testament to the tenacity of a fine athlete with a boxer’s movements. He boasts of a phenomenal 79-2 record in the French Open, which demands tennis of the highest intensity as the slow surface precludes a more attacking game such as seen in Wimbledon. When fully fit, Nadal is a tuned-to-the-minute athlete with Job’s patience in putting himself on the baseline and slugging it out, point by excruciating point.
As winner of 15 Grand Slams, Nadal demands respect as an all-rounder. His record may, however, show a bias to the French Open, his 10 titles in 13 years in Paris making him an adopted French icon. The way in which he shut out Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka in the final was more an execution than competition. Mats Wilander, a three-time Paris winner, acknowledges winning titles at Roland Garros is a most challenging task, and to win 10 times is one of sport’s greatest achievements. Along with Roger Federer, to whom he lost in the Australian Open this year, Nadal represents the older generation — gracious on court and still capable of winning. To make age seem insignificant in the modern age of power racquets and supreme fitness regimes is a phenomenal achievement. There will always be a special place for such champions in tennis’ pantheon.