The French open at Roland Garros is played on clay, lasts for a fortnight, using either Wilson or Babolat balls, and at the end of it all, Rafa Nadal wins”
What more is there to say about the man. Even in the most abnormal of years, there are still fundamental norms. And one of these is Rafa Nadal destroying all before him at Roland Garros.
Novak Djokovic was emphatically despatched 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 as Nadal drew equal with Roger Federer by winning a total of 20 Grand Slam Titles, 13 of which have come on the clay, developing further their glorious, epic, friendly bête noire dynamic.
Novak didn’t help himself with his loose, loopy shots in the opening few games of the 1st set, every now and again playing into the hands of Rafa’s ferocious forehand which he continually pummelled down the line. The crosscourt shots just weren’t working for Novak, as too his dropshots, as too his sloppy his first serve, all converging together to hand Rafa the extra 10% in most rallies, and an resounding 6-0 1st set win.
It was a virtuoso performance from the Spaniard, and it took Novak 55 minutes to win his first game of the match. Rafa continued to put every foot right, mixing in with his forehands some lovely crosscourt floaters, just clipping over the net, clipping the line and petering out of the court. Another glorious set of tennis, taking it 6-2, the telling stat at the end of the first two sets- Unforced Errors; Nadal- 6, Djokovic- 29.
Fortunately for the spectacle, Djokovic grew in confidence, consistency and quality as the game wore on, in fact even broke Nadal back in the 6th game. Nadal hugged the baseline even more in the final set- if only Novak could have just put some of his dropshots away, it could have been a (slightly) closer contest.
But, sometimes, we must accept a superhuman force has beaten us, and for Djokovic (and for all tennis players) this is Nadal on clay. An Ace for Game, Set and Match, and another Mousquetaires for his collection.
Would it have made a difference if Dominic Thiem hadn’t been devoid of energy by the Quarter Finals? Doubt it. This was the first time in the Open Era that both the Women’s and Men’s Singles champions at a Major have not dropped a set throughout the entire tournament, and 2020 will thus go down in history as one of Rafa’s most emphatic of his gluttony of wins at Roland Garros, in the same league as 2008 and 2010 where he repeated the same feat of not dropping a set. His record at Roland Garros now stands at 100 wins for 2 defeats. Simply. Superhuman.
He truly is El Rey del Clay, and has retained his crown for at least another year. It’ll take something exceptional to take it off while he’s still knocking around.