Remember when everyone was doubting Rafael Nadal during his eight-month layoff from tennis?
Well, who's doubting him now?
The 26-year-old Spaniard, who missed the second half of 2012 with a knee injury, defeated David Ferrer in the final of the 2013 French Open on Sunday, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. It was Nadal's eighth career title at Roland Garros.
Ferrer—who is now 4-19 lifetime against Nadal—said after the match, via Matt Cronin of TennisReporters.net:
After an instant classic against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, Nadal cruised in the final against Ferrer. He notched five aces and 35 winners, while committing only 25 unforced errors (compared to 35 for Ferrer), via RolandGarros.com. He won 70 percent of first-serve points, 76 percent of net points and 54 percent of return points.
Before Sunday's match, Ferrer had been rolling—he hadn't dropped a set through six matches at Roland Garros, including against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was coming off a win over Roger Federer. But that didn't matter against Nadal.
Nadal is now a stunning 43-2 with seven singles titles this year. This, following murmurs of his decline in 2012. He hasn't posted this many singles titles in an entire year since 2010. He ranks first on the ATP Tour in return games won and second in service games won, via ATPWorldTour.com. If that doesn't define dominance, I don't know what does.
We should have known better than to ever doubt a true great. While Nadal will inevitably decline in time (and probably sooner than Federer has, given his style of play), one thing's for sure: He's not done yet. He's far from it.
While he isn't ranked No. 1 in the world, he's unquestionably been the No. 1 player in 2013. Who would have thought that in the beginning of 2013, especially with the way Djokovic and Andy Murray had been playing?
What we should have learned after Nadal's emphatic victory at Roland Garros is that heart, dedication and killer topspin can overcome the various injuries and ailments tennis players accumulate throughout the years. It can also delay Father Time's wrath.
Nadal may have been hobbling to start 2013, but he looks like the youngest man on the court these days. The King of Clay still rules Roland Garros.