RG final diary: Nadal's 10th is special, not because of the number, but the journey to get to it

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Champ10n: Nadal.

It’s difficult to quantify what a 10th French Open title for Rafael Nadal actually means. Eight was impressive, nine was mind-blowing, 10 is… one more than that?

It is by all means an incomprehensible feat – one that has literally left his coach Carlos Moya speechless.

“There are no words to describe this,” Moya said after the final when he was asked to put Nadal’s historic achievement into context.

But if we really want to put a value on this 15th Grand Slam trophy won by Nadal, we should take a look at what it took for him to get there rather than focus on how cool it is to have a nice round figure like 10, of any title.

It had been three years since Nadal had won a major. During that time, he suffered from knee, back and wrist problems, lost his confidence, dropped to as low as No10 in the rankings – that’s bad in his world – had his worst results in over a decade and was written off by many out there.

Last year he walked away from Paris with his wrist wrapped in a blue bandage, his eyes red from emotion after he was forced to pull out ahead of his third round due to injury, at a time when he believed he was finally recovering his best form.

“It was a missed opportunity,” Nadal admitted on Sunday during his press conference, which was a stark contrast to that tearful one he had a year ago to announce his withdrawal from the tournament.

One often wonders how he finds it in himself to go through one comeback after another.

He has had so many injury setbacks but he never stopped trying to bounce back.

His journey over the last 12 months has taken him from vacationing with his girlfriend on a boat trying to forget his woes, to being No1 in the Race to London, No2 in the world, with a 10th Roland Garros trophy in tow.

That is why this No10 is special, that is why his uncle Toni came down to the court to hand him the trophy – it is their last year touring together – and that is why he had broken into tears after his victory.

Nadal was asked if the last three years felt too long having not been able to add another major to his tally.

“We cannot reduce our sport to four tournaments per year. That’s the real thing. For me, winning Monte Carlo means a lot, then Barcelona, then Madrid in front of my crowd. So I enjoyed all these things and all these titles are so important for me,” the Spaniard said.

“Yeah, today is more special, true. Win the 10th Roland Garros is something unique and different is true. And I am very happy and emotional, but I cannot think all the time about Slams. For me, every week is a different story and every week is beautiful event, and I enjoy playing tennis every week.”

It is that mentality that keeps him coming back. Nadal loves the process as much as he loves the result.

He was asked if he will feel freer for the rest of the season now that he’s finally won a 15th major. He quickly reminded us that he has “doubts every day”, and that he will feel under pressure in a week’s time when he is preparing for the grass tournament in Queen’s.

That kind of hunger and level of competitiveness cannot be taught.

For Nadal, tennis is simple. You train, you enjoy it, you fight, you win, you repeat.

We should expect to see more of that for the rest of the season.

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Pau Gasol compares Rafael Nadal's achievements to greatest ever in sport

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Witnessing history: Pau Gasol in the stands for Sunday's final in Paris.

Spanish NBA veteran Pau Gasol believes Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented 10 Roland Garros title wins is on par with some of the greatest achievements in all of sport.

The San Antonio Spurs center is a good friend of Nadal’s and has attended more than one of his finals in Paris including Sunday’s three-set win over Stan Wawrinka that gave him a historic 10th French Open trophy.

“I think it’s ranked really high because it’s something that’s never been done in the world of tennis,” Gasol told Sport360 at Roland Garros.

“I think it’s something extremely remarkable that could be compared to the greatest achievements of any other, probably, athlete in any other sport.

“I’m just very very proud of Rafa, the way he’s playing again, it’s just fun to watch. It’s really a joy and a privilege to watch him play this sport.”

Gasol was also present at the 2013 and 2011 finals of Roland Garros and says he had no doubt his compatriot would secure his ‘Decima’ on Sunday.

“I was not nervous, I was very confident that Rafa was going to win, in a pretty comfortable manner as he did, the way he was playing till today, and he continued today even more, he was dominating, just incredible,” said Gasol.

The 36-year-old believes Nadal can keep dominating for the rest of the season.

“If he continues at this level – it’s not easy of course winning Grand Slams, but today he won, and he has options at Wimbledon. He’s the best player on the circuit this year and has chances there. He can take advantage of these moments,” said Gasol.

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Nadal beats Wawrinka to secure dream 'Decima' at Roland Garros

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Dream Decima: For Nadal.

Rafael Nadal became the first-ever man, and second player in history, to claim 10 titles at the same Grand Slam as he secured a dream ‘Decima’ with victory over Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final on Sunday.

The Spaniard ended a three-year Grand Slam title drought with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 win over the third-seeded Wawrinka and will return to the No2 spot in the rankings for the first time since October 2014.

The victory gave Nadal his 15th major trophy and he has now taken sole possession of the second spot on the all-time list of men’s Grand Slam titles won.

The upper grandstand was covered in large banners with the words ‘Bravo Rafa’, as the Spaniard received the trophy. They also played a video on the screens in the stadium with highlights from all his 10 wins.

“The feeling that I have here is impossible to describe, difficult to compare to other places. For me the nerves, the adrenaline that I feel when I play in this court is impossible to compare to other feelings. It’s the most important event in my career without a doubt,” an emotional Nadal told Cedric Pioline on court after the win.

In warm, sunny 30-degree weather, Nadal and Wawrinka walked onto Court Philippe Chatrier to huge roars.

Ahead of the final Nicole Kidman presented the trophy to the crowd, encased in a Louis Vuitton trunk.

Nadal sent out a serious signal of intent when he held his first service game at love. If anyone was curious to see if he was nervous to start the final step in his quest for the ‘Decima’, the Spaniard did a good job of not showing.

Wawrinka too held his first service game easily and it was the Swiss who got his hands on the first break point of the match, in game three, with an overhead smash. It was saved with a service winner, to the Wawrinka backhand. An ace from Nadal came at opportune moment – it was just his 15th of the entire tournament, and he went on to hold for 2-1.

It was Nadal’s turn to get a break points – in fact he got four of them, but Wawrinka saved all of them valiantly to hold for 2-2. Only four games were played but 24 minutes had already passed since the start of the final.

Wawrinka fell behind 0-40 in game six and Nadal got the first break of the match for a 4-2 lead by producing some cool angles and swiftly changing the direction of the ball.

‘Rafa, te quiero’, yelled a male fan from the crowd.

A sensational backhand volley gave Nadal a 5-2 advantage.

A series of punishing forehands gave Nadal his first set point on the Wawrinka serve and the Spaniard did not hesitate to convert as he leapt to a one-set lead in 42 minutes.

Nadal got his first time violation of the match in the first service game of the second set, but he was unfazed and held for 1-0.

The nine-time champion was mercilessly sending one punishing forehand after the other and Wawrinka could barely even get a racquet on one of them as he went down 0-40.

The crowd cheered loudly, in attempt to lift Wawrinka, hoping to see a more competitive contest, but Nadal broke at love to open up a 2-0 gap.

Watching winners whizz past him: Wawrinka.

Watching winners whizz past him: Wawrinka.

Nadal easily consolidated his break for 3-0. After dropping seven games in a row, Wawrinka finally stopped the bleeding to hold in gave four of the second set.

The highlight of the match thus far came in the sixth game as Nadal responded to a Wawrinka backhand with a stunning forehand down the line winner that almost clipped the net post. Nadal wasn’t even looking when he hit it.


Wawrinka still hung on for 2-4.

Nadal got his hands on two set points as a Wawrinka passing shot sailed long. The Swiss obliterated his racquet in frustration and Nadal took a two-set lead with a service winner to edge closer to his dream ‘Decima’.

Nadal broke to start the third and was in control, pulling off smooth volleys and consolidating with ease.

The crowd got behind Wawrinka as he tried to hold in the fifth game but their roars were to no avail as Nadal extended his lead to 4-1.

The match was over two games later as Nadal flung himself to the ground in celebration.

“Congratulations to Rafa. Nothing to say about today. You were just too good. Its always an honour for me to play you – second time in a Slam final,” Wawrinka told Nadal on court.

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