RAFAEL NADAL proves the age of miracles is not past. His win over Novak Djokovic in the final of the French Open on Sunday was nothing less than astounding for its ease. Nadal swatted aside one of the greatest players ever as if toying with a novice, to win his 13th French Open crown and equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles. As Djokovic said later, the conditions were supposed to favour him: The tournament being played in the cool autumn rather than the usual May-June slowed the ball down and took the edge off Nadal’s dreaded top-spin forehand; the closed roof for the final was also to the advantage of Djokovic. He had the form, too, having won all his matches this year except for the defeat suffered through suspension at the US Open after accidentally hitting a line judge. Nadal, on the other hand, was supposed to be rusty after a long layoff due to the Covid pandemic.
All that mattered little when Nadal took court — aware that he must stamp his dominance early, he blasted Djokovic off the court without conceding a game in the first set before completing a facile 6-0 6-2 7-5 win. Djokovic was left shattered, staring at the red clay, shaking his head in disbelief at the level his rival was playing at. Nadal, though ecstatic, said the scoreline did not matter: ‘Maybe it’s a little bit more beautiful to win 6-4 in the fifth, than winning in straight sets, no?’ This comment shows Nadal, the ultimate fighter, revels in the thrill of the contest, not mere numbers.
Nadal tying Federer’s record will enliven the debate over the greatest player of all time. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer each seem to have a legitimate claim on the ‘greatest’ tag. Federer is the only man to have won three separate Grand Slams at least five times and has over 100 professional title wins. Nadal’s record is lopsided though as 65% of his Grand Slam titles have been won in Paris. Djokovic has beaten his two great rivals more than he’s lost to them. It makes greater sense, however, to halt the comparisons and enjoy what remains of the golden era of men’s tennis.