La Decima: The Mythical Tale of Rafael Nadal

LA DECIMA, probably the most used phrase among tennis fans in last 3 months by the tennis fans around the globe, be it in verbal discussions or on the internet. Winning a single grand slam ten times was unheard of, until Rafael Nadal made it happen, not once, but three times, at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and the most significant, the Roland Garros covering the spectrum of ATP events including ATP 500 series, ATP 1000 Masters Series and the Grand Slam events. The 10th title on Parisian clay was special in all terms, including the man on the other side of the net. The whole saga unfolded as follows.

Chapter 1 : Stan The Man

The first finalist was Stanislas Wawrinka, who locked horns against Rafael Nadal, then world no. 1, at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne in the 2014 Men’s Singles Final. Chasing the 14th Grand Slam title, Nadal was the overwhelming favorite, already beating two single handed backhand players, Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer.

The world came to a shock as Wawrinka comprehensively defeated Nadal in four sets to claim his first ever Grand Slam title. Nadal’s back injury added ambiguity to the credentials of Wawrinka as the title holder. But after the fortnight in Melbourne, Stanislas Wawrinka evolved into Stan The Man. But, was he to become a one time wonder?

Chapter 2 : The King of Clay

2017 so far, has been exceptional for Nadal — making it to the finals of big hard court events like the Australian Open and Miami open, building hopes for a great clay season.

Nadal did not disappoint, going on to win unprecedented 10th titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Upto French Open, Nadal had lost one match only, at Rome, against the second best clay court player of the season, Dominic Thiem. Nadal cruised into the finals of Roland Garros for a record 10th time, without even dropping a set, but serving plenty of bagels and breadsticks along the way. But all of that did not matter much, only because of the man who stood at the other side, The Stanimal. But how did Stan matter so much, that a total dominance of Rafael Nadal on red clay was reduced? The clock turns back 2 years.

Chapter 3 : The Birth of The Stanimal

2015 was all about Novak Djokovic. Roland Garros was no exception. Probably the most anticipated event of the year, with one question. Will Novak complete his career Grand Slam? The answer was Stanislas Wawrinka, who established himself as The Denial. Yet again, against all odds, Stan the Man conquered Paris.

Dominance was the only word to define his performance that day. Looking at how big Novak’s 2015 season was, where he won rest of the slams glorifies this win even more. That day in Court Philippe Chatrier, the dormant Stanimal was born. Yet another evolution. Wawrinka, was now a serious name. His Melbourne feat was not a fluke. It was the day of foundation of a beast, The Stanimal.

Further, his win in US Open against Djokovic again established him as “the man no one wants to face in a slam final.” His big match mentality could not be described. He was naturally a unique entity in many ways.

Chapter 4 : The unstoppable force up against the immovable object

“Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.” — reads the left forearm of Stan Wawrinka, for whom, the ever failed phrase was unseen in the final stage of a slam. Similar was the case for Rafael Nadal in the finals of the very venue. One streak was bound to end. Would the force be stopped? Would the object be moved?

Both Stan and Rafa have defied logic, expectations, trends, patterns and opinions. Where Nadal’s consistency on clay is beyond definitions, Wawrinka’s inconsistency to consistently peak during slams is another anomaly yet to be defined.

The battle began, Nadal drew the first blood, taking the first set. But the rampage did not stop, The Bull was dominant over The Stanimal. The object removed firm for another two sets. The object himself became a force and outpowered Wawrinka in straight sets to conquer the red clay of Paris for an unprecedented 10th time. The force was stopped, finally! La Decima was a reality now. The unreal, unheard, is real and fact now.

Chapter 5 : Number Ten

Tennis is a cruel game. You are never guaranteed a fairy-tale ending. You may win for long, you may lose forever. Poetic Justice could be the word to define this mammoth feat. Stan the Man was born against Nadal, Stanimal was leashed inside Court Philippe Chatrier.
The three elements combined on the ominous day when the 10th Roland Garros crown for the King of Clay was destined.

The numbers to look at are plenty:

  • Nadal is the only man to win 10 titles at a single grand slam event all eras combined.
  • This also means that Nadal has won 20% of all French Open played in Open era.
  • He now stands solitary at number two in men’s Grand Slam tally with 15 titles, only behind Roger Federer (18 titles).

Chapter 6 : The Coronation of the King and the King Maker

The only sad fact about this event was that it was Rafa’s coach and uncle – Toni Nadal’s last appearance as his coach at the event. Toni is supposed to coach new budding talents in the Rafa Nadal Academy.

Toni is Nadal’s King Maker. The French Tennis Federation chose Toni Nadal to hand over the Coupe des Mousquetaires to Nadal as a sweet gesture to mark the conclusion of their partnership. But Toni had his own moment of coronation, when he was also awarded with a replica of Coupe des Mousquetaires himself. The magnitude of these gestures speak for themselves. Toni Nadal has a French Open title for himself in his own right. He is the architect, engineer, mason, contractor and developer of the monument of achievements that Rafael Nadal rightfully owns. Tennis had a fairytale ending for Rafael and Toni this time.

The game witnessed the unthinkable.

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