Nadal decimates Wawrinka to complete La Decima in Paris

Spanish star loses just six games as he secures straight sets win at French Open

 

Rafael Nadal won the French Open for the 10th time, shrugging off the weight of history and the best but weakened efforts of Stan Wawrinka over three sets to become the oldest champion at Roland Garros in the Open era on a baking Sunday afternoon in his favourite arena. It is more likely the Seine will dry up than anyone will match the Spaniard’s La Decima.

Nadal, who was 19 when he won for the first time and turned 31 eight days ago, crushed the dregs of resistance from his exhausted Swiss rival, who is 32, in two hours and five minutes to win 6-2 6-3 6-1. In seven matches, Nadal had dropped only 35 games. That is dominance on a grand scale.

It was not a great final; indeed it was an anti-climax after a fortnight of almost daily drama. But the occasion was adorned by a great champion, and a stout if outclassed challenger.

The world No 1, Andy Murray, fell to Wawrinka in more than four-and-four-and-a-half hours over five sets on Friday; and the world No 2 Novak Djokovic collapsed worryingly in the quarter-finals to Dominic Thiem, who in turn could not give Nadal a decent fight in their semi-final.

So Nadal and Wawrinka were obviously worthy finalists – the first since 1969 to both be 30 or older, but the event did not live up to the billing or the expectations. Wawrinka’s compatriot, Roger Federer, is waiting for all of them, refreshed and confident, at Wimbledon in a few weeks time. What a summer it has been.

Wawrinka wore his sponsor’s wrist watch, like a good Swiss. But his time was up long before he’d had a chance to get properly into the match.

It was the hottest day for at least a week, in a tournament where stormy weather has intruded only occasionally. White shirts and hats made for a bright backdrop as nearly 15,000 patrons crammed on to the main court, their paper fans fluttering feverishly for a windless couple of hours.

Sport has always been a go-to mirror of troubles elsewhere, of which Paris and other cities have had their share. So it wasn’t hard to spot the hardcore security muscle: who wears a dark suit, arms folded with eyes behind the darkest of sunglasses trained on the crowd, on a boiling day like this?

The tension on court, meanwhile, was more innocent. Each had a break chances and blew them inside the first quarter of an hour, thwarted by bursts of powerful counter-punching. An epic struggle beckoned.

But the mood shifted mid-set. Wawrinka survived a brutal examination of his serve to hold in a long fourth game, Nadal held quickly with an ace for 3-2, then broke to 15 just past the half hour. The exertions of beating Murray looked to have drained Wawrinka of his legendary stamina at just the wrong moment.

Nadal, who had spent five fewer hours getting to the final, was now full of bounce and vim, charging the net and ripping his famous forehand. When Wawrinka planted a lazy forehand long, the first set belonged to Nadal.

Wawrinka chomped down on a ball with his teeth after Nadal stuck another wicked crosscourt into the unattended deuce corner for an early break in the second. Frustration painted his weary face.

In the space of maybe 20 minutes, the final had swung from a fair fight to a mugging. Rumours that Wawrinka was carrying a minor arm injury were given substance as backhands that had dazzled Murray two days earlier now found a home in the net or out of court. Those that reached Nadal were despatched imperiously.

Wawrinka needed to get his game back immediately to avoid a defeat on a par with that of David Ferrer against Nadal here in 2013. There was resistance, but it flickered rather than burst into a sustainable flame. When Nadal went 2-0 up in the third, Wawrinka’s challenge was to avoid embarrassment.

He kept punching his ground strokes, chasing down lost causes, but Nadal was pushing him so deep he could not find sharp enough angles to get into the points. He forced Nadal to deuce in the fourth game, but could not cash in.

Wawrinka was in touch, but not for long. After fighting through deuce, he struck a forehand long to hand Nadal his fifth break of the match at 1-4 in the third. Two games from the championship, Nadal held without hindrance. Wawrinka served like a condemned man, shaking his head between points before dumping a final backhand. Nadal fell to his beloved clay, got up to shake the loser’s hand then soaked up the acclaim of his Parisian faithful.

Nadal said courtside: “I’m very emotional. It’s very bad, in this moment, I know. I play my best in all events but the feeling I have here is impossible to describe and difficult to compare to others. The nerves and adrenaline is impossible to compare. This the most important event in my career, without a doubt.”

(Guardian service)

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