The champion: Nadal wins Paris again, crushed Wawrinka

ROLAND GARROS, DAY 15 – 

THE MEN
During the past three years, Rafa Nadal was struggling. His body was messed up, he lost a lot of confidence, and frequently, he pushed the ball around.

But, this year, he began to feel substantially better. He started to believe that when he had the opportunity, he could belt the ball.

And he did, crushing Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1 to win Roland Garros for the 10th time.

How good was he during the past 15 days in Paris? How about amazing, as he only lost 35 games in seven matches. 

“It’s the most important event in my career without a doubt so to win again here is something I cannot describe,” said Nadal.
 
This season, his backhand has improved tremendously. It used to be land in the middle of the court, but now it is substantially deeper, with more action. We all know that his forehand if so heavy, so strong and lands with so much depth.

But his backhand was, well, it was very decent over the past 13 years. However, it wasn’t hard enough and many times, it was too short. Just fading away.
 
In 2015, Nadal’s body was breaking down. He couldn’t run as fast as he used to on the clay. 

He lost in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and, at RG, going down against Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the quarters.

In 2016, at RG, Nadal retired in the third round. Obviously, he was pretty hurt. At the US Open, he was knocking out in the fourth round in five sets against Lucas Pouille. In the fall, he barely played. 

But this year, he was finally healthy. His doctors helped him a tremendous amount. It took a few months, but in April, he was ready to rock ’n’ roll.

He crushed everyone, including Wawrinka. After the first set, the Swiss had no idea what to do. He couldn’t out-hit Nadal’s forehand, backhand, his serve, his movement, basically everything. The three-time Grand Slame champ Wawrinka was desponded.

“When you play against him, he’s amazing fighter. On clay he’s just tough to play,” Wawrinka said. “There is always one ball coming back. There is always spin on the ball. There is always a different bounce that’s what the other player make on that surface. He creates a doubt that you cannot have if you want to beat him. And on clay especially, because the way he’s moving, it’s even more difficult.”

Nadal was extremely happy. He is now ranked No. 2 again, and in the next few months, he could snare the top spot. 

The great positive is that Nadal isn’t tired and he can actually go to England and seriously compete at Queens and Wimbledon.
 
But right now, he is only thinking about RG. He was thrilled.

“It’s about the work of every day. Yeah, happened 10 times here already,” Nadal said. “Have been magical all the things that happened in this tournament for me. So very happy. Today was a very important day for me. Have been some tough moments last times, injuries, so it’s great to have big success like this again. Happy because I have been working a lot to be where I am today.”

THE WOMEN
Very few people knew who was Jelena Ostapenko when she came into Roland Garros on the first day. But, at the end, the entire world saw she can crush the ball.

Latvian Ostapenko was never very nervous, and even when she was down in the second set, she had to keep pushing, harder and harder, and camping out inside the line. She was down 3-0 in the second, and she was very close, but she couldn’t keep the ball inside the courts. Within seconds, Ostapenko changed the dynamic, and Simona Halep couldn’t do a darn thing.

Ostapenko won the tournament 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, grabbing the title. Now she is ranked No. 12. It is possible the 20-year-old can sneak into the top 5 — or higher?

The key to her progression is she is so driven. 

“I was losing 6-4, 3-0, and then in my mind I was just, I’m just going to enjoy the match, andI will try to fight until the last point. And then I stayed aggressive and the match turned my way,” she said. 

Ostapenko is so incredible powerful that, while she can miss it here and there, she will continue to go for it, on her forehand, backhand, first serve, at the net — almost anything. Of course, she has been poor at times, but this year overall, she has become very consistent. It’s not all about crushing the ball, but winning.

Ostapenko had hit 54 winners on Saturday against Halep. Talk about aggression.

“I hit quite a lot of winners from that ad court down the line, so I was trying to put it in, of course,” she said.

Of course.

The sad thing is that the 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is out for the rest of 2071 because she is pregnant. The five-time champ Maria Sharapova just pulled out at Wimbledon because she wrecked her back and she won’t be to play until late July, or longer.

The No. 1 Angie Kerber isn’t playing well at all this year, and the No. 3 Pliskova is inconsistent to tell. 

So maybe by the end of the year, Ostapenko can become No. 1. Who would have thunk that?

 

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