When Rafael Nadal was humbled by Novak Djokovic in the last-eight round of the 2015 French Open and then pulled out of Roland Garros midway through the tournament a year later, the Spanish great was all but written off. It seemed that his Grand Slam-winning days were over. Injuries had ravaged him and even after getting back to his fittest, he was not delivering the desired results.
And then this happened. Nadal decimated Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to win the French Open on Sunday. It was Nadal’s 10th title at the Roland Garros -- a staggering feat. He is now the first player in the Open era to win the same Grand Slam 10 times, an achievement that has been dubbed La Décima. The Spaniard has completed La Décima in two other tournaments, winning his 10th title in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the run-up to this year’s French Open. Overall, Nadal’s total Grand Slam count now stands at 15, moving him past Pete Sampras into second on the Open era men’s leaderboard, behind Roger Federer (18) and ahead of Djokovic and Australian legend Roy Emerson, both of whom have 12 majors to their names.
Nadal’s latest title is by far his most impressive win on the red clay of Paris, which he has ruled over the years. Such is his class and mastery of the surface, Nadal made this win look routine. But the King of Clay had to slog hard to reclaim his Paris throne. The way Nadal dismantled Wawrinka in the final showed the Spanish Matador still has the legs and the heart to win a few more Slams in Paris. It’s a scary thought for his opponents -- facing Nadal at the Roland Garros. This is s different Nadal. Rejuvenated and hungry to compete for the best prizes in tennis. The time spent away in recovery after he was sidelined by a wrist injury at the end of last year has rekindled that old fire in his belly.
The next challenge for the Spaniard is the Wimbledon. It has been six years since Nadal’s last appearance in a SW19 final – when he lost to Djokovic – and seven since he won his second title at the famed grasscourts, a straight sets victory over Tomas Berdych. The young, injury-free Nadal was always a top contender in London, but his powers on the grass surface have diminished since the shock defeat to Lukas Rosol in 2012. However, in this form, Nadal will start as a top contender in London. He has some scores to settle.