Sunday 21 January 2018 / 03:39 PM

Hail to ‘The King of Clay’


Rafael Nadal won his ninth French Open title on Sunday in devastating fashion, defeating archrival Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in a sweltering contest at Roland Garros.

Prior to the tournament, there were many proffering the suggestion that Nadal should not be regarded as the favourite for the clay court Grand Slam event, and on paper it’s easy to see why.

It has not been a great year to date for Nadal, with only one tournament victory on clay and four successive losses to Djokovic. Plenty were suggesting that the Serb – rather than the Spaniard – should be the bookies’ favourite.

Quite simply, this was a fallacy.

I must admit to doubting ‘Rafa’ myself, but the imperious way in which he swept to victory in Paris has left me – and many others – looking foolish. Nadal is the undisputed ‘King of Clay’, and he shows no sign of abdicating just yet.

Once again, when it really mattered, Rafa delivered, and the fact that this was his fifth successive French Open title and his ninth in total is, quite frankly, mindboggling.

For Djokovic – like Murray in the semifinal – his best simply wasn’t good enough. It has been a good year for the Serb so far, but being in great form was insufficient against the master of the red surface. When Nadal is playing like this, it really is impossible to beat him.

Djokovic will no doubt have regrets. His failure to build on his first set victory will be of particular annoyance to the perfectionist, but the reality is that if Nadal turned up, he was always likely to win on his favourite surface.

What will irk the world No.2 further is the fact that in reality, the match was not as one-sided as the score box suggested. Both players hit a similar amount of winners, and both had similar serve win percentages. Meanwhile, Djokovic was dominant on his serve, with 11 aces to Nadal’s three.

Where the Serb fell down was his error count; making 11 more errors than Nadal proved costly, perhaps the most acute being the double fault with Nadal on match point.

Nevertheless, Djokovic will brush himself down and turn his attention towards Wimbledon; but annoyingly for last year’s runner-up, so will Nadal. With his first Grand Slam of the year under his belt, the 2008 and ’10 champ will no doubt feel confident in his ability to perform on the grass of SW19.

Over in the women’s, Maria Sharapova lifted her second French Open trophy after defeating Simona Halep in three closely-fought sets, the Russian’s fifth Grand Slam triumph. Sharapova was particularly pleased with her victory and intimated that it was something of a surprise, given that clay isn’t really her surface.

As with Nadal, the win in Paris will have provided Sharapova with added impetus ahead of the grass court season. And given the fact that she is generally more impressive on grass, she will be one to watch out for when Wimbledon rolls around.

What is certain is that with a hard-fought French Open behind us, there are plenty more tennis treats for us to indulge in over the next few months. Let the good times roll.


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About the author

Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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