June 10, 2017
Rafael Nadal stands on the brink of an historic tenth Roland Garros title as he prepares to face Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s big final.
Wawrinka also knows what it is to win the French Open. He did so against Novak Djokovic, who was also regarded as practically invincible at the time.
So it is not beyond Stan the Man to shock Nadal too, even though the Spaniard also looks unbeatable right now.
Expect fireworks whatever happens – and don’t be surprised if Rafa emerges the winner in four sets.
The way Nadal dismissed Dominic Thiem in their semi-final was impressive indeed. There is something so steely about Rafa’s will at this tournament that it’s hard to see past him in the showpiece.
However, Wawrinka doesn’t know what it’s like to lose a Grand Slam final, with Djokovic his victim on three separate occasions.
He knows exactly what he has to bring to the party. If Stan displays all-out aggression from the start, hits the lines with his majestic backhand and thumping forehand, and never lets up from start to finish, he could yet be French Open champion for the second time.
Wawrinka certainly has more chance than Andy Murray, swept aside in five scintillating sets on Friday.
The Brit was just four points from victory in that semi-final, so it would be wrong to be too critical of his performance.
However, Wawrinka demonstrated that he has a gear that Murray simply doesn’t possess – a level of aggression and intensity, an appetite for risk-taking, for sheer sporting adventure, that combine to bring him incredible results.
Murray is too often reactive, defensive, out to spoil the rhythm of his opponent without truly dominating or even taking the initiative.
It usually works against anyone outside the top ten. But when a very talented player is on form, that calculating nature of Murray’s simply isn’t enough on its own.
So Murray must learn that there are times when he must throw away the calculator in his brain and unleash the beast within instead – just as Wawrinka did in that emphatic final set.
How much will the 32-year-old have left in the tank for the ultimate test on clay against Nadal?
That could be a problem – although Stan is deceptively athletic and showed against Murray that he lacks nothing when it comes down to a test of stamina.
The final is certainly no foregone conclusion – but it would take something truly special from Stan to deny Rafa his destiny.
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