French Open Tennis: Rafael Nadal Dominates for Fifth Roland Garros Title
Amazingly through all my years of watching tennis, until today I had yet to watch a full clay court fixture.
English television just doesn't give it as much coverage as the other surfaces and I don't have Sky!
So today’s men's final between Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling was to be my first encounter. I went in with average expectations on the basis that it was going to be no Nadal-Federer tussle.
I was also aware that clay court action was a lot slower than the grass courts of Wimbledon and I generally liked the sport to be fast and powerful.
At first I struggled to get past the yellow ball and red/orange clay combination. My eyes kept losing focus of the ball. A few moments saw me miss a winner as I didn't know there had been one! It took me almost the whole of the first set to acclimatise.
In part this also owed to the alarming pace with which the players struck the ball.
Maybe organisers should take Venus Williams’ controversial display of eclectic fashion on board to inspire themselves into a different design for the ball!
So I moved onto the action. What did excite me immensely was the sliding feet plus clay spray combination that added to the scenes.
Rafael Nadal moved on the court like a sprinter on a track. It was fast, it was stunning. He was simply sensational.
The image of his sliding feet reaching for shots and the resultant splash of clay gave me a reaction similar to a sugar rush. I loved it. It showed the true intent and capabilities of a player with such an awesome clay court reputation. At parts his play seemed effortless.
In the opening set he took an early advantage, yet was given a run for his money by his accomplished opponent.
Soderling’s play sadly became erratic and prone to error in the second set after he failed to capitalise on multiple break points in the second game of the second set.
It was Nadal’s for the taking from there.
The obvious bias towards the Spaniard did make me wonder how Soderling had outplayed Nadal in last year's fourth round.
For a player to have instilled upon an opponent the only defeat at for them at Roland Garros, he would have had to brought to the court something special. He had of course disposed of a legend on clay.
Soderling’s last service game though gave some insight into his talents. All in all he gave me enough in terms of shot selection and powerful play that allowed me to warrant him back up for his top ten seeding.
He is a player I will now recognise as one of the world's best, especially with his impressive collection of aces.
Possibly Nadal just had a bad day last year. Today though, he was on fire.
Some tremendous rallies were afforded to the viewers with Nadal using numerous net winners to take the advantage.
The match also took on an authentic feel through it’s language. French is a language I have mostly forgotten. The only remaining remnants of my knowledge from school comes down to a few throwaway phrases and the numbers.
At least this meant I knew the score for the most part. That’s always a start. I was slightly confused though that the word for Deuce was something completely different and then the word used for "out" was actually "out"!
I will certainly have to do my research as well as top up on my language skills for next year's tournament.
Of course there is much talk of Roland Garros losing its place in future years, which would be a shame. The geographical substance of the complex, being in the heart of France, should really be enough to keep it there.
As the season heads to the grass courts now, I will look to prepare myself for next year's clay court season. Hopefully I will have Sky by then and so would begin endless hours in front of the television watching more clay court matches.
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