Rafa Secures 'La Decima': How The Roland Garros Final Was Won
Rafael Nadal confirmed his date with destiny on Sunday at Roland Garros, defeating Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 for a historic 10th title. The Spaniard is the first player to lift a decade of trophies at a single Grand Slam event.
Nadal not only secured 'La Decima' on the terre battue, but also moved into solo second on the all-time major titles list with No. 15, behind only Roger Federer's 18 victories. He ascends to World No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday as well, moving into the Top 2 for the first time since 2014. Wawrinka was vying for his second Roland Garros title, having prevailed in 2015.
Fewest Games Dropped In Winning Major Title
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Here is how the final unfolded...
FIRST SET - Nadal 6-2
Having met on 18 previous occasions, Wawrinka is well aware of the formula needed to dethrone Nadal. His fearsome backhand will be put to the test against Nadal's penetrating forehand, as the Swiss looks to break down the Spaniard's preferred wing and take control of the court position battle.
Nadal has been dominant on serve throughout the fortnight, conceding just six breaks through six rounds. The trend would continue as proceedings got underway on a steamy Sunday afternoon at Stade Roland Garros. He would deny the first break point of the match at 1-1 and sent an early message to Wawrinka, earning four break chances of his own in the next game. The Swiss would hold after nine minutes, but could not stave off the Spaniard for long.
Painting the lines with varying angles and depth, Nadal snatched the first break of the match for 4-2, driving Wawrinka off the court with a wide forehand and forcing a netted backhand. The 32 year old would continue to leak errors off the ground as the set wore on and Nadal would break again to claim the opener 6-2 after 43 minutes.
SECOND SET - Nadal 6-3
The winner of the first set has won all 18 meetings between the Spaniard and the Swiss, and Nadal had designs on continuing the trend on Sunday. Refusing to concede an inch from the baseline, his forehand soared off the clay with aplomb and Wawrinka had no answer. Nadal strung together nine straight points to break to love and consolidated as the second set got underway.
The nine-time champion had been on court for five hours less than the 2015 winner during the fortnight and the disparity began to show as the match wore on. A fresher and more agile Nadal covered every corner of the court and refused to allow Wawrinka to discover his rhythm with consistent aggression.
With legends Roy Emerson and Gustavo Kuerten, as well as actress Nicole Kidman and King Juan Carlos of Spain in attendance, Nadal claimed the shot of the match with Wawrinka serving down 4-1. The Swiss flew outside the tramline to laser a flat cross-court backhand. Few would have a chance to get a racquet on the ball, but Nadal did that and more, responding with a whipping forehand winner down the line that brought the crowd to their feet and jaws to the floor.
Nadal would surge to a two-set lead, claiming the second 6-3 in 44 minutes.
THIRD SET - Nadal 6-1
A strong serving performance was critical for Wawrinka. In the final in Melbourne in 2014, he won 87 per cent of first serve points, while last year in their most recent meeting in Monte-Carlo, the script was flipped. The same was true on Sunday in Paris. Nadal claimed more than half of Wawrinka's service points through the first two sets and stayed in control as the third commenced under cloudy skies.
The Spaniard reeled off eight of the first nine points, breaking to open the set. Wawrinka did not play poorly, but Nadal was on another level. In 17 of their 18 previous encounters, the match finished in straight sets and he was poised to slam the door on Wawrinka in swift fashion.
Nadal escaped from a 0/30 deficit while serving up 2-1, providing the final burst of momentum to throw him across the finish line. Another break gave him a 4-1 lead and he would confirm his date with destiny after two hours and five minutes, as Wawrinka netted a backhand on his second match point. Nadal fired 27 winners, including four aces, while converting six of 13 break points in total.