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June 5, 2011

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French Open - Roland Garros 2011, Paris, France
June 5, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Nadal Remains King - Wins Sixth French Open
June 5, 2011 -- Rafael Nadal has a mountain of respect for his friend Roger Federer. But all bonds are severed for Nadal when it comes to winning in Paris.
As relentless as ever on his favorite stage of the planet, Rafael Nadal won his sixth French Open title to tie Bjorn Borg's all-time record. With his win, Nadal has reached double digits in Grand Slam titles: 10. Roger Federer owns 16.
"To win this final against one of the best players in the world and in history is something which is really fantastic for me," Nadal told The Associated Press. "It's one of my most beautiful dreams."
This was Nadal's and Federer's 25th match at any tournament, their 19th in a final, and their 8th at a major final, the last one being The Australian Open in 2009.
All high marks go to Nadal. His unabating pressure on Federer's backhand side was again a predictable strategy, but one that worked like a charm. Nadal served every ball to Federer's backhand, except two. There's no need to change a winning strategy.
Nadal ran down balls, like a passionate yet crazy-with-energy man. He hit awesome cross-court flickered backhands that whizzed by Federer. Nadal showed off his wiggler down-the-line shot, too, which appears as if it'll go out then bends in for a winner. No one does that but Nadal.
Federer should be credited for pushing Nadal's game to record heights, also. The Swiss maestro seemed overwhelmed during the nearly four-hour match, that's a fact. But the scoreline reads differently: 57 67(3) 75 61. This French final was not a stroll in the Bois de Boulogne for Nadal as had been the case in their 2008 final, their last meeting in Paris, when Federer won a total of four games. Federer's game since that dark day had matured. He willingly took risks.
"I was pretty happy with the way I played," Federer said. "It was a good match."
Federer began his aggressive campaign against Nadal, looking like the man who had dethroned Novak Djokovic on Friday in the semifinals. The #3 seed Federer stepped inside the baseline to receive serves to his backhand, and hit winners. He bypassed backhand returns of serve, too, running around them to his favored cross-court inside-out forehand. Roger handled high-bouncing backhands that were drilled at him, too. Wigglers did come off Rafa's racquet, but they also came off of Federer's.
Pundits, for example, Mats Wilander, projected a win for Federer. "He designed his game around playing Nadal one more time," Wilander said on Friday during Game, Set, and Mats broadcast on EuroSport Live. "I have to give Roger Federer the upper hand."
Roger almost validated the prediction. He ran up the score to 5-2 in the first. French fans went berserk. Their Roger might do it.
But as soon as the medical tape came off Nadal's foot in the changeover, he unleashed his red-clay rage.
Roger stepped up to the baseline, seemingly confident. He was a game away from a one-set lead. But after missing a forehand volley then an errant drop shot, the momentum swung. Nadal had halted the Federer express.
Nadal won the next five games and the first set 7/5. He won 40 points and Federer 39 in the set. Only one point divided these two tennis titans, but the advantage of having won the first set made Nadal the overwhelming favorite to win the championship.
Federer moved through the initial parts of the second, as if sleepwalking. His head dropped. His serve percentage dropped. His unforced errors rose. There were a few glimpses of hope. He had good misses, as he came over the uber-high bouncers only to see them clip the net.
In the eighth game Federer broke back to even it up, but Nadal wouldn't let him reap the glory that spilled from stadium. Nadal broke again and served for the second. But a nine-minute rain delay, the first over the entire tournament, snagged Nadal's rhythm and soon forced a tiebreak.
Federer hit error after error, handing it to Nadal.
Nadal is 101-0 in Grand Slams, having won the first two sets. But Federer didn't care. He broke the Spaniard three times in the third, winning it 7/5.
"I thought he was getting tired in the third," Roger said later.
Federer was poised to undermine Rafa's dream. The Swiss had it in him to go five and desperately wanted to.
"I had the momentum on my side after the third," Federer said. "I knew I had it in me. Rafa's tough. Too bad I couldn't take my chances in the fourth. But Rafa played well today and deserved the win."
Nadal saved his most ruthless tennis for last. He was keenly aware of the advantages he wrangled, having won sets one and two. If Federer evened the match at 2-sets apiece, the title would be up for grabs. All bets would be off. Images of the 2008 Wimbledon final must have crossed Nadal's mind. There they were split at two sets each. Nadal missed his chance to win the title in the fourth. He did win in the fifth for his first of two Wimbledon crowns; but he wasn't going to throw fate to the wind today in Paris.
Nadal hoisted the Coupe des Mousquetaires with a certain vigor this evening. He complimented Federer, again his friend, on his improved play, "His return from his backhand was better," he told John McEnroe on court. "He pressured my serve."
How Nadal ended up with more clay on his socks than Federer is open for debate. What's not debatable is the Spaniard's 45-1 match record at Roland Garros and what will be his number one ATP ranking on Monday.
He said the best way to prepare for Wimbledon was to practice and play matches on grass. He'll arrive at The Queen's Club outside London tomorrow. He is scheduled to play doubles on Tuesday and singles on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Federer will jet off to The Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, where he'll face the defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the opening round.
OF NOTE: Bjorn Fratangelo won the Boys' Singles title today in Paris, becoming the first American to achieve that height since John McEnroe in 1977. Who say's American's can't play on clay?


Earlier Columns from this Event:
June 4, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: China Wins French Open
June 3, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Federer Topples Djokovic - Nadal Dismisses Murray
June 2, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Two Happy Women Into French Final
June 1, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: The Power of Power
May 31, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Bravo Schiavone
May 30, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Is Rafa Ready?
May 29, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: The Others
May 28, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Djokovic Scores Again
May 27, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Falling Seeds
May 26, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Digging Out
May 25, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: The Kids' Kid
May 24, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Close One
May 23, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: Rough Road
May 22, 2011 French Open - Roland Garros: The Eyes of Roland Garros

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