Spain’s Rafael entered the history books on Sunday by winning his tenth Roland Garros title, defeating Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
Nadal also became the first player in history to win ten titles of one Grand Slam tournament.
“A perfect Roland Garros for me,” Nadal said.
Call it a Perfect 10.
Or as the Nadals preferred: La Decima, Spanish for “The Tenth.”
“I play my best at all events, but the feeling here is impossible to describe. It’s impossible to compare it to another place,” Nadal said. “The nerves, the adrenaline, I feel on the court are impossible to compare to another feeling. This is the most important event in my career.”
Not only did Nadal win every set he played in the tournament, he dropped a total of only 35 games, the second fewest by any man on the way to any title at a major tournament with all matches being best-of-five-sets in the Open era, which dates to 1968.
“On paper, when you look at the scores, it all seems fairly easy,” Nadal said. “But it’s not.”
No other man or woman has won 10 championships at the same major in the Open era. Along with improving to 10-0 in finals at Roland Garros, Nadal increased his haul to 15 Grand Slam trophies, breaking a tie with Pete Sampras for second place in the history of men’s tennis, behind only rival Roger Federer’s 18.
It marked a stirring return to the top for Nadal at the site he loves the most: He is 79-2 at the French Open, 102-2 in all best-of-five-set matches on clay.
“He’s playing the best he’s ever played. That’s for sure,” said Wawrinka, who had won 11 matches in a row on clay. “But not only here.”
True. Nadal leads the tour with four titles and 43 match wins this season and will rise to No. 2 in the ATP rankings Monday.
Third seed Wawrinka, having beaten world number one Andy Murray with a majestic display of firepower in a grueling semi-final, arrived full of hope as, at 32, he tried to become the oldest French Open winner since Andres Gimeno in 1972.
But the barrel-chested “Stanimal” was powerless as Nadal turned the final into an exhibition of his claycourt supremacy.
As a weary Wawrinka sliced a volley into the net on match point Nadal collapsed on his back on the baseline.
“I’m a little emotional,” Nadal said before his tearful uncle Toni, his career-long coach who will take a back seat at the end of the year, handed him La Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Wawrinka said he had not found his best level but paid tribute to the man he beat to win the first of his three grand slam titles in Australia in 2014.
“For sure he’s playing the best he’s ever played. That’s for sure. Not only here,” Wawrinka said. “It’s a tough loss. But I played against the biggest clay-court player ever.”