2010 French Open Men's Final: What Would a Win Mean For Rafael Nadal's Future?

Michael LanichCorrespondent IJune 6, 2010

PARIS - JUNE 04:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand during the men's singles semi final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Jurgen Melzer of Austria at the French Open on day thirteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 4, 2010 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Winning Paris used to be almost a guarantee for Rafael Nadal, but injuries and a shocking loss last year have provided us with just enough doubt to make this final both mouth-watering and terrifying.

Also, this is the first final since Nadal's maiden slam win in which he has not faced one Roger Federer across the net.  The soothing knowledge in the somewhat predictable, yet remarkably effective strategy against his greatest rival is gone.

Now Rafa must look deep inside himself and his game to find what it takes to beat someone with a not-so-obvious strategy.

But what does winning Paris mean? 

Well, beyond winning his fifth title at Roland Garros, and his seventh overall, it's mostly about being a champion again and the confidence it brings to your game and your psyche.

We all saw what Rafa's Australian Open win did for him last year.  Had injuries not derailed him, it could have been a profoundly historic year.

But a year's pain on and off the court have helped mold Rafa into a better and possibly hungrier player.  Someone who knows now that time can be taken away from anyone.  One has to only look to Gustavo Kuerten to see how an injury can take a great career away.

This year, more than most, will show us what direction Rafa's career may take over the next 4-5 years.  Sidestepping injury possibilities for a moment, a win today would be in some ways as remarkable as any he's had in his career thus far.

It's a win after so much pain.  A win that shows he can do it again when some, possibly even himself, may have doubted that it could happen again.

It's a step further toward what I like to call the Elite Legends Plateau which is ten slam wins or more. 

I'm not saying now that if Rafa wins today that he will win Wimbledon or even the U.S. Open, but it will certainly boost his confidence towards the rest of the season and provide him with a measure of certainty and confidence in his abilities to beat someone not named Roger Federer in one of tennis's most hallowed events.

I think we can all appreciate Soderling's game and his ascension towards the top of the game, but I think many must appreciate even more and applaud any player who overcomes pain of any kind to win again.  It shows heart.  It shows courage, and most of all it shows all of the things that Rafa is known for.  It's not just his game.  It's so much more than that.  We should all cheer him for that.  Vamos!


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