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Truly Gr8! History Man Rafa is King of Clay – No Contest


Locker Room

June 9, 2013

Go Rafa! The first man in history to take a Slam EIGHT times! Twelve majors at the age of 27 and every chance of many more to come.

‘A lot of work since I was a kid,’ Nadal smiled afterwards. A kid no more. Rafa, you really are the man.

This French final was a celebration of his bullying brilliance more than a genuine contest. But after the colossal fight he’d had with Novak Djokovic on Friday, and all those dark months of obscurity during the early European winter, Rafa deserved this comparatively simple stroll to his eighth French Open title.

Nadal saw off David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to complete a one-sided afternoon of all-Spanish tennis. Likeable Ferrer hadn’t lost a set all fortnight but couldn’t threaten his compatriot when it mattered.

The only doubt was whether the anti-government protesters in Paris could disrupt the match and throw Rafa off-balance. We should have known better. Flares and yells weren’t going to worry comeback king Nadal. Nothing could stop him.

He is the greatest clay-court player of all time. No one can argue against Rafa’s claim to supremacy on the softest surface now. Well done Nadal! He deserved his glory and it was fitting that Usain Bolt, a fellow sporting superstar, presented him with the trophy.

The beauty of the summer schedule is that Rafa will barely have a moment to relax and savour his success. Grass could be another matter entirely – and three players will be desperate to take him down in a few weeks’ time.

Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will all be going into Wimbledon confident they have what it takes to defeat the champion of Roland Garros. That’s what makes Wimbledon the greatest show on earth. It is hard to imagine a Wimbledon final as predictable as the one we saw in Paris on Sunday. In this modern Wimbledon era, we expect more – and we usually get it.

But never before has there been quite so much anticipation of a Wimbledon fortnight. After so many incredible matches in the last year, welcoming Nadal back to the big-time is the icing on the cake.

And what of the women? Serena Williams now has 16 Grand Slam titles after her 6-4,6-4 dismissal of Maria Sharapova on Saturday. She is closing in on Chris Evert and Martina Navratoliva on 18. Helen Wills Moody’s 19 isn’t far away. The challange for Serena is to eclipse Steffi Graf’s 22 and Margaret Court’s imperious 24 Grand Slam titles.

Can she do it? Even at 31 you can’t rule her out, because – unlike Nadal – she has no rival at her level. Also, Serena now looks like a slimline version of her former self – and that can only be good for avoiding injuries.

Strong favourite to lift the Wimbledon trophy yet again and make it 17 Grand Slams in all, Serena is still undoubtedly big box office. We are lucky to have the chance to witness a true great of the women’s game strut her stuff once again. Finally she is getting the credit she deserves. Serena is likely to receive the warmest London welcome she has ever had. Whether anyone can threaten her dominance at Wimbledon remains to be seen, but there have been plenty of unexpected twists to the plot in the past.

In a couple of weeks, the drama starts. The countdown begins right here – and the last scramble for tickets is already reaching fever pitch.

Can’t wait to be there, in the middle of the magic at the All England Club. How about you?

Mark Ryan is part of the Mail on Sunday Wimbledon reporting team.

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