Rafa rules Roland Garros with Wimbledon looming
Novak Djokovic played the “King of Clay” as though constantly afraid that Rafael Nadal was about to serve the winning ace.
A line taken and adapted from the great playwright George Bernard Shaw, though nevertheless apt in describing two thespians of tennis who needed no prompting to deliver script-perfect performances.
It was the Serbian Djokovic, who, with a steely determination raced into a first set lead. Showing his hand early, everyone was left in no doubt at all that this was the title that he wanted the most.
Although Rafael means “God has healed” in Spanish, the Majorca-born athlete looked anything but, being battered, bruised and worn out after a gruelling four sets in 30 degree heat; his hands covered in plasters and cramping up from the arms down.
Going one set down appeared to play to his strengths. The mark of a champion is their inability and refusal to quit when it gets tough. If Djokovic wanted this, he was going to have to fight. Nadal, who is 4/1 to triumph at Wimbledon, responded emphatically, winning the next two sets 7-5, 6-2 having lost the first 3-6. At one game up in the third, he displayed a touch of class. Struggling to get from the base-line to the net midway through a rally, the Spaniard narrowly missed the return. It was a great drop shot from Djokovic and Nadal clapped, recognising the skill involved.
A humble touch from a class act. Midway through the set, the crowd turned on Djokovic, 7/4 favourite for Wimbledon, as he missed a return. In what has become a trademark move, his tennis racquet took the brunt of his frustration. The Serb was rattled and on the ropes.
He hung on for longer in the final set, showing grit to respond to Nadal’s superiority, though even he was beginning to feel the effects of the sun. The curtain came down as Djokovic sent a second serve long at match point, after an unfair heckle from the crowd. Novak means “new man” in Serbian. It was, however, the old guard that conquered, as Nadal claimed his ninth French Open title. Long live the king.